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Deriving Fire Behavior Metrics from UAS Imagery

Author(s): Christopher J. Moran, Carl A. Seielstad, Matthew R. Cunningham, Valentijn Hoff, Russell A. Parsons, Lloyd P. Queen, Katie Sauerbrey, Tim Wallace
Year Published: 2019

The emergence of affordable unmanned aerial systems (UAS) creates new opportunities to study fire behavior and ecosystem pattern-process relationships. A rotor-wing UAS hovering above a fire provides a static, scalable sensing platform that can characterize terrain, vegetation, and fire coincidently. Here, we present methods for collecting consistent time-series of fire rate of spread (RoS) and direction in complex fire behavior using UAS-borne NIR and Thermal IR cameras. We also develop a technique to determine appropriate analytical units to improve statistical analysis of fire-environment interactions. Using a hybrid temperature-gradient threshold approach with data from two prescribed fires in dry conifer forests, the methods characterize complex interactions of observed heading, flanking, and backing fires accurately. RoS ranged from 0-2.7 m/s. RoS distributions were all heavy-tailed and positively-skewed with area-weighted mean spread rates of 0.013-0.404 m/s. Predictably, the RoS was highest along the primary vectors of fire travel (heading fire) and lower along the flanks. Mean spread direction did not necessarily follow the predominant head fire direction. Spatial aggregation of RoS produced analytical units that averaged 3.1-35.4% of the original pixel count, highlighting the large amount of replicated data and the strong influence of spread rate on unit size.

Citation: Moran, CJ, Seielstad CA, Cunningham MR, Hoff V, Parsons RA, Queen LP, Sauerbrey K, and Wallace T. 2019. Deriving fire behavior metrics from UAS imagery. Fire 2(2): 36. https://doi.org/10.3390/fire2020036
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Mapping, Pre-fire planning or management, Post-fire planning / management
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 19743
FRAMES RCS number: 58141
Record updated: Jul 16, 2019