Optus and ANU to throw satellites, drones, and robotics at Australian bushfires

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The Australian bushfires wreaked havoc. A new study shows that anthropogenic climate change made things worse.


Image: World Weather Attribution

The Australian National University (ANU) and Optus announced on Thursday the pair would attempt to develop a national system to detect and extinguish fires using a mixture of satellites, drones, and robotics.

The first step of the program, which is due to run until 2024, will be to create an “autonomous ground-based and aerial fire detection system”.

It will begin with the trial of long-range infra-red sensor cameras placed on towers in fire-prone areas in the ACT, which will allow the ACT Rural Fire Service (RFS) to monitor and identify bushfires.

The long-term goal, though, is to put out fires using drones.

“We hope to develop a system that can locate a fire within the first few minutes of ignition and extinguish it soon afterwards,” ANU vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said.

“ANU is designing and looking to build highly innovative water gliders with autopilots that will extinguish fires within minutes of them igniting.”

By 2022, it is planned that ANU will manage a constellation of satellites, as well as a geo-stationary satellite, to help with fire detection.

See also: Twitter bots and trolls promote conspiracy theories about Australian bushfires

“If we are able to improve the speed and accuracy of fire detection it ultimately means we can improve our response and better protect communities and landscapes,” ACT RFS acting chief officer Rohan Scott said.

A joint chair for bushfire research and innovation, as well as a research fund, will also be established at ANU.

Also on Thursday morning, Optus announced it would allow customers to provision eSIMs from the My Optus app without needing a physical Optus SIM at some stage.

“eSIM also eliminates the hassle of having to carry

Britain, Canada, EU throw weight behind 2030 biodiversity protection goal

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BRUSSELS/LONDON (Reuters) – Britain and Canada on Monday joined the European Union in pledging to protect 30% of their land and seas by 2030 to stem “catastrophic” biodiversity loss and help galvanise support for broader agreement on the target ahead of a U.N. summit.

FILE PHOTO: A bald eagle is pictured perched in a tree in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada, August 15, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

With the twin crises of climate change and wildlife loss accelerating, leaders are trying to build momentum ahead of the meeting in Kunming, China, in May, where nearly 200 countries will negotiate a new agreement on protecting nature.

“We must act now – right now. We cannot afford dither and delay because biodiversity loss is happening today and it is happening at a frightening rate. Left unchecked, the consequences will be catastrophic for us all,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

“Extinction is forever – so our action must be immediate.”

Without action, 30% to 50% of all species could be lost by 2050, threatening economic and social prosperity, a report by The Nature Conservancy charity this month said. For example, losing bees, butterflies and other pollinators could cause a drop in annual agricultural output worth $217 billion.

Scientists have said a minimum of 30% of the planet must be safeguarded, through protected areas and conservation. A draft of the Kunming agreement includes this pledge.

While Monday’s pledges did not detail specific actions nor funding plans, protected areas are usually managed to ensure the long-term conservation of nature. This can mean curbing or banning commercial or extraction activities, ensuring unspoiled natural areas remain unspoiled, or restoring and maintaining ecosystems such as forests and wetlands.

“We have both the responsibility and the opportunity. We have the second largest land mass,