ANU-Optus Bushfire Research Centre of Excellence

01 Oct 2020

A revolutionary approach to eliminating the risk of devastating bushfires.

Australia is experiencing unprecedented extreme fire conditions associated with prolonged drought, high temperatures and strong winds. This extreme weather creates catastrophic bushfire conditions that exceed known firefighting technologies - leading to significant ecological, economic, health and social costs. 

In response, Optus and The Australian National University (ANU) are joining forces to develop an innovative national system to detect bushfires as soon as they start and put them out within minutes. 

The ANU-Optus Bushfire Research Centre of Excellence will undertake advanced research and develop novel hi-tech solutions to predict, detect and extinguish blazes before they become deadly. The ambitious program will run until 2025.

Our goal: Rapid Fire Suppression

The proposed goal is to detect a fire within one minute from ignition, and extinguish within five minutes.
This revolutionary approach would:

  • DETECT and locate a fire within 60 seconds of ignition
  • COMMUNICATE the location to extinguishing agent
  • DEPLOY accurately targeted aerial vehicle
  • EXTINGUISH fire within five minutes of ignition

Short-term outcomes: proof of concept

In the short term, the ANU-Optus Bushfire Research Centre of Excellence will develop and demonstrate a series of ground and aerial based systems for early fire detection and extinguishing. 

To achieve this, ANU will apply their current research into fire ignition risks, and work directly with Optus who will develop and implement suitable communications systems. Optus and ANU will bring in additional industry partners to contribute to other technology development.
Early detection of fires will be explored through:

  1. evaluation of ground-based low-power wide area network meshed sensors
  2. long-range high-fidelity visual and infrared sensing in strategic locations by leveraging advanced machine learning algorithms 
  3. UAV systems for targeted high-fidelity detection of ignitions
  4. foundational communications and compute platforms to support integrated systems
  5. real-time data analytics.

Rapid suppression will be explored through:

Development by ANU of low cost auto-piloted water gliders which can achieve accurate and very rapid fire suppression of small fires at any time of day or night and in all weather conditions.

Technology demonstrations will be conducted with fire management agencies within the first year. Results from proof of concept trials in the ACT will guide future research and contribute to the design of an integrated defence system for implementation across Australia.

Medium to long-term outcomes: A national system

Medium-term goals include the enhancement and integration of technologies to build an optimised national defence system for bushfire detection and response.

In the longer term, a state-of-the-art fire detection sensor for geostationary orbit will be developed to provide much greater sensitivity and ground resolution than existing geostationary Earth observation solutions. The instrument is planned to be launched on the next generation of Optus geostationary communications satellites.

Medium to long-term projects will include: 

  1. low Earth Orbit cube-sat constellation to support bushfire planning
  2. geostationary satellite bearing a telescope capability
  3. integration and scaling of autonomous ground-based and aerial detection systems
  4. novel environmentally friendly technology to rapidly extinguish fires after ignition.

The ANU OzFuel low Earth orbit satellite mission for near-real time fuel load and condition analysis, together with ANU research on the environmental management of forests will be implemented to minimise the risk of catastrophic bushfire.

ANU Research Leadership Team

Dr Marta Yebra

Professor Rob Mahony

Partner with us

The ANU-Optus partnership forms the nucleus of an aspirational approach that is paramount to reducing the future likelihood of catastrophic bushfires. If you are interested in contributing or participating in this significant project, please contact for more information.