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Harnessing Drone Technology to Protect British Columbia Communities from Wildfires

Harnessing Drone Technology to Protect British Columbia Communities from Wildfires


Candrone has embarked on an important service project deploying LiDAR drone technology to curb wildfire risks where urban areas meet forests in British Columbia. Motivated by the urgent need to combat the increasing wildfire occurrences, Candrone combined LiDAR drones and the B.C. Government’s 'Fire Smart Begins at Home Guide' recommendations. Drone-based LiDAR technology is emerging as a transformative tool for fire risk assessment and management, particularly at the wildland-urban interface (WUI). This project demonstrates how the data collected by Candrone can be used by local municipalities to digitally model areas requiring thinning or removal of hazardous vegetation to mitigate the threat of wildfires to at risk communities.


 DJI L2 LiDAR Sensor and M350 Drone


Introduction to Drone-based LiDAR Technology


Drones equipped with Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) systems offer a high-resolution, rapid-response capability that outperforms traditional aerial survey methods. By capturing detailed, three-dimensional images of forested areas, these drones can identify potential fire hazards across multiple layers of vegetation—data crucial for effective fire prevention strategies. The ability to swiftly map large areas allows for immediate actions to be taken where the risk is highest, thus providing a proactive approach to disaster prevention.


Candrone Services Team on Location


Strategic Fire Management Workflow


The process begins with drones flying over the at-risk areas to collect data, which is then used to classify buildings and their immediate surroundings at the WUI. This classification helps in mapping out Home Ignition Zones, which are critical in planning fire prevention efforts. The LiDAR data facilitates a targeted approach by pinpointing exact locations where vegetation management can significantly mitigate potential fire threats to homes and other structures.


Workflow for Classifying Buildings and Home Ignition Priority Zones


Upon collecting the LiDAR data, the next crucial step is the classification of buildings and the delineation of Home Ignition Priority Zones at the WUI. This involves isolating each residential structure within the LiDAR dataset and generating a set of concentric buffer zones around them. These zones are categorized into three priority areas:


  1. Immediate Zone (0-1.5 meters): Directly adjacent to buildings, this zone is crucial for preventing embers or flames from directly igniting structures.
  2. Intermediate Zone (1.5-10 meters): This buffer helps manage vegetation and materials that could propagate fire towards the structures.
  3. Extended Zone (10-30 meters): Managing this area involves controlling the spread of wildfires approaching from the surrounding landscape.


LiDAR data is meticulously analyzed to identify vegetation and other combustible materials within these zones that do not comply with fire safety guidelines. By highlighting these areas, the technology facilitates targeted interventions where they are most needed.



LiDAR models are classified according to Home Ignition Priority Zones


 The Immediate Zone (red colour) indicates a tree growing against a house and elevating its risk of ignition in a wildland fire.


Trees are segmented and assigned unique IDs in the LiDAR dataset. Their canopy metrics are stored and indexed.



Community Benefits and Vegetation Management


The application of this technology in vegetation management is a direct intervention in enhancing community safety. By precisely identifying and digitally modeling areas requiring thinning or removal of hazardous vegetation, communities can pre-emptively address fire risks. This precise management reduces the likelihood of wildfires spreading through residential areas, thereby protecting lives, homes, and infrastructure. Furthermore, the efficiency of this method means that fire prevention measures can be implemented quickly and with minimal disruption to community life.


The use of drone-based LiDAR technology represents a significant advancement in wildfire management and community safety in British Columbia. As wildfires continue to pose a significant threat, the ability to quickly and accurately assess and address fire risks is more crucial than ever. Candrone’s method of applying this technology not only supports effective and efficient fire management practices but also offers a scalable solution that can be adapted to various landscapes and communities throughout the province. By investing in these Fire Smart Assessments, British Columbia can enhance its defensive measures against wildfires, ultimately saving lives, preserving properties, and ensuring the long-term safety and sustainability of its communities.





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