New AI-powered Bushfire-fighting App NOBURN Goes Live

A Bushfire

University of Adelaide experts from the Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML) developed a new AI-powered model to help predict and prevent devastating bushfires. 

The app, called NOBURN, was created as a partnership with specialists from The University of Sunshine Coast and assesses bushfire risk through an AI model that collects photos submitted by everyday people and classifies different vegetation types in fire-prone areas. The algorithm is able to analyse the images and make predictions about the severity of a potential bushfire and how far it’s likely to spread in the photographed region.

Traditionally, bushfire experts would inspect a site in-person to examine fire risk and fuel load, but there’s a dire shortage of these experts and a growing demand of sites that need visiting. Professor Javen Shi, AIML’s Director in Advanced Reasoning and Learning, helped develop NOBURN to combat this issue. 

“This AI app empowers ordinary bush walkers, campers, school kids, and families to contribute to assessing bushfire risk and helping us mimic the performance of a trained expert,” he said. 

“Also, there are many sites with difficult accessibility, which inevitably means little to no data gets collected in these areas… Our major breakthrough is developing a multi-domain adaptation algorithm using causal AI to address this.”

The evaluations produced by NOBURN can then be used by local firefighting authorities to coordinate preventative measures and help with efficient resource allocation, protecting our environment and communities from the devastating effects of bushfires. 

“This will significantly increase the amount of fire risk and fuel load data available and help the authority to reduce bushfires,” Professor Shi said.

While NOBURN relies on the institute’s world-leading expertise in AI, AIML also collaborated with numerous trained experts when creating the app. Knowledge from forestry researchers Dr Sam Van Holsbeeck and Professor Mark Brown from the University of the Sunshine Coast and Professor Paul Salmon from the Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems was critical to the app’s development. 

What’s next?

Professor Shi hopes the technologies his research informs today revolutionise our firefighting approach and preparedness into the future. 

“We hope to continue our research into creating a decision-making tool that can help firefighting authorities develop better-informed strategies. I envision that, just like Tony Stark speaks to his AI in Iron Man, we can create an AI tool that the firefighters can speak with and get real-time, actionable advice,” Professor Shi said. 

“When it comes to bushfires, NOBURN is just the beginning.”

The NOBURN app is now available for download on Apple and Android devices.

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