Satellite images that capture devastation of NSW bushfires can better prepare state in future

Geospatial Intelligence chief executive Rob Coorey stands in front images comparing bush coverage before and after the devastating bushfire season. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Geospatial Intelligence chief executive Rob Coorey stands in front images comparing bush coverage before and after the devastating bushfire season. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The "phenomenal intensity" of the black summer bushfires have been captured in detailed satellite images that could help better prepare the NSW government for future emergencies.

Braddon-based business Geospatial Intelligence won a NSW government tender last year to collate satellite images of the state before and after the bushfire season.

High-resolution images taken across NSW everyday for two months prior to the fire season were stitched together to make the initial image, and analysts rushed to create the second image as the fires burnt out early this year.

The NSW government can use the images to understand the extent of fire damage to habitat and property, and be better prepared next season, Geospatial Intelligence chief executive Rob Coorey said.

"The thing that did shock us was the intensity, it was a phenomenal intensity, to the point it was scorching the earth," he said.

"We can look at existing infrastructure, whether it's a road network or fire towers, whether they were in the right position or whether we can now better allocate some of the infrastructure resources," Mr Coorey said.

"We can look at the fire patterns to see if we need to change some of the things we're doing."

Mr Coorey said the detailed images would also allow the government to clearly understand the impact to wildlife and habitat.

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements heard earlier this month satellite images were a particularly crucial technology that assisted emergency services last summer.

Australian Space Agency deputy head Anthony Murfett told commissioners they helped map fires, detect smoke and better understand weather conditions.

Australia does not currently own any satellites and is wholly reliant on international technology. SmartSat CRC chief executive Andy Koronios said that needed to change.

"This is clearly a risk, particularly in the increasingly difficult environment at the moment," he told commissioners.

Geospatial Intelligence analyst Rick Brown examines satellite images taken before and after bushfire raged through the Blue Mountains south of Katoomba. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Geospatial Intelligence analyst Rick Brown examines satellite images taken before and after bushfire raged through the Blue Mountains south of Katoomba. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

"More satellite systems can offer an opportunity for Australia to develop its own capabilities in this area and have the capability that it can task and control these assets ... so that they meet our own emergency requirements."

READ MORE:

Geospatial Intelligence chief executive Rob Coorey points to areas around the ACT affected by recent bushfires. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Geospatial Intelligence chief executive Rob Coorey points to areas around the ACT affected by recent bushfires. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Mr Coorey agreed state, territory and federal governments should look to satellite technology as a cost effective solution to prepare jurisdictions into the future.

"The imagery we use is very, very high-resolution, we have to pay for it but from a cost perspective it's actually a cheaper way of doing an accurate survey of large areas," he said.

"It allows us do these analytics, while the human eye might not be able to see it we can actually do processes on the computer to identify things we previously couldn't see."

Mr Coorey said the technology, his business has been using for almost two decades had many used including identifying oil spills and helping with marine rescues.

"It's very powerful technology ... it can be used much more."

Comments