Dryad Networks is using the ‘Internet of Trees’ to fight wildfires

Dryad Networks is using the ‘Internet of Trees’ to fight wildfires Ryan is a senior editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter (@Gadget_Ry) or Mastodon (@gadgetry@techhub.social)

Dryad Networks is deploying IoT technology to help prevent the devastation caused by wildfires.

This year alone, we’ve had the ongoing wildfire in California that has now set the unwanted record of most acres burned in a single year, the wildfires in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, and another of Australia’s bushfires⁠—to name just a few.

Each case leaves a trail of destruction in its wake with environmental, social, and economic impacts. A report in July estimated at the time that around three billion animals were killed in Australia’s bushfire alone⁠—a figure which has sadly likely grown since.

“It’s hard to think of another event anywhere in the world in living memory that has killed or displaced that many animals,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman. “This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history.”

Tens of thousands of people are also displaced by wildfires and the economic costs are estimated to exceed $100 billion per year.

Once a fire grows to a certain size, it can be almost impossible to stop. I’m sure we’ve all seen the images of exhausted firefighters doing all they can to save homes, lives, and habitats despite the odds. However, catch a fire early enough and it’s relatively trivial to put out (or at least contain to a smaller area.)

Dryad wants to help catch fires in that early stage. The company’s network of sensors claims to be able to detect wildfires in under 60 minutes, even in remote locations.

Current solutions are typically based on cameras and satellites. They rely on smoke plumes developing enough to be detected – which can take several hours or even days – and is often too late to contain.

Dryad founders Carsten Brinkschulte and Marco Bönig came up with the concept of using IoT sensors to combat wildfires after one which caused devastation in the Amazon rainforest in 2019.

Not only did forest fires generate 7.8 billion tonnes of CO2 that year – around 20 percent of the world’s emissions from burning fossil fuels – but the Amazon fire also destroyed a large part of a forest which helps to reduce global carbon dioxide levels.

Solutions have begun to emerge which use the NarrowBand-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) standard. While these can be more effective than cameras and satellites, Dryad Networks argues they’re not practical for large-scale and remote deployments.

Dryad’s solution is based around a gateway which uses a patent-pending distributed mesh architecture that builds on the LoRaWAN standard. These gateways interconnect to cover very large forests.

Solar-powered sensors are mounted on trees and use AI technology to detect fires even when they’re in their smouldering stage:

Border gateways are situated at the edge of the network and connect via wireless (LTE/NB-IoT), satellite, or wired internet to relay data to Dryad’s cloud-based dashboard which alerts forest managers to any fires and provides a general overview about what’s happening in the forest.

The solution was initially piloted in a forest in Germany back in May. Since then, Dryad says it’s secured letters of intent from ten forest owners in Germany and Africa.

Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO and co-founder of Dryad Networks, said:

“The notion of the intelligent forest is now coming of age. Our vision is to deliver an effective communications architecture for even the most remote forests and make sub one-hour wildfire detection the new reality.

Using a solar-powered, distributed mesh IoT network capable of covering vast expanses of forest where mobile network coverage is lacking will radically transform the way forests can be monitored and managed.”

There’s a clear and pressing need for a solution to wildfires and Dryad’s offering looks to be the best yet. The company has recently secured $1.8 million in seed funding to advance its lofty ambitions.

“We invest in transformational digital startups that share our ambitions,” commented Dr Tim Gegg, Managing Director at STIHL Digital, one of the investors.

“The team at Dryad Networks impressed us with its plans for an innovative IoT platform to digitise forests and help protect the natural world.”

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