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    Dryad Networks’ ‘Internet of Trees’: Pioneering Firetech Innovation in Wildfire Prevention

    As wildfires continue to rage in various parts of the world, from Greece and Portugal to Canada and Hawaii, the threat these fires pose to life and infrastructure is hard to ignore. With predictions indicating that the frequency and intensity of these fires will only grow, there’s a pressing need for both traditional and innovative solutions.

    Enter the ‘firetech’ sector, a burgeoning area of startups introducing technology to the battle against wildfires. Among these is Berlin-based Dryad Networks. While we’ve historically depended on human sightings for detecting fires, Dryad’s ambition is to reduce the detection time from several hours to mere minutes, offering a vital edge to firefighting efforts.

    Their solution? The ‘Internet of Trees’. This suite of technologies peppered throughout forests doesn’t need to visually see a fire to detect its presence. Using solar-powered sensors installed approximately every hectare, Dryad’s devices can identify a fire in its early smouldering stages. These sensors ‘smell’ gases like hydrogen and carbon monoxide, while also monitoring environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity, and air pressure.

    What makes these sensors particularly ingenious is their machine learning capabilities. They adapt to the specific scent of their surrounding forest, ensuring they can differentiate between harmless sources of smoke and the early stages of a wildfire. In the event of detection, the sensors relay this information via a mesh network, culminating in border gateways at the forest’s periphery. These gateways then convey this crucial data directly to firefighters through high-bandwidth connections.

    Founded in 2020, Dryad is on the move. Last year, they sold 10,000 sensors, primarily to public utilities and municipalities across Europe, Canada, and the US. They have ongoing trials in Germany’s Eberswalde forest and California’s thick redwood terrain. The potential scale of their mission is vast. With ambitions to deploy 120 million sensors globally by 2030, Dryad hopes to protect nearly 4 million hectares of forest and significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

    Beyond Dryad, the firetech scene is buzzing. Innovations range from BurnBot’s fire-fighting robot and Rain’s autonomous helicopters, to AI-powered thermal imaging satellites by Germany’s OroraTech. Drones are being trialed across Europe, both for early fire detection and direct firefighting from the air. The realm of possibilities is expansive, as long as these innovations are seen as parts of a holistic solution.

    But technology alone won’t be our savior. There’s a need for traditional approaches like controlled burns and educating the public. Above all, addressing the root cause – the escalating levels of greenhouse gases driving climate change – is fundamental. As Dryad’s CEO, Carsten Brinkschulte, aptly puts it: “There’s no silver bullet.”

    Author

    author avatar
    Ajinkya Nair

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