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How AI Transforms Wildfires Detection in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is hilly and 65% of land area is covered by trees, shrubs and grasses. Fast and efficient wildfire detection is critical for protecting environmental and economic assets, and human life.

InFlightFD robot in HK
Figure 1: InsightFD is protecting public broadcasting infrastructure

With over 7.4 million people living in 1108 km2 land area, Hong Kong is the fourth territory with highest population density1 in the world. She is also the third largest global financial center2. However, in this highly commercialized and crowded city, only 25% of area is urban or built-up lands, while over 65% of land area is occupied by Woodland, shrubland, and grassland (Figure 2). And the topography of Hong Kong is mostly hilly and mountainous with steep slopes, wildfires are the major enemy to nature and also threaten human property and life.


Figure 2: Land Utilization in Hong Kong, Nov 2019. Source: HK government

In addition, 40% of Hong Kong land area is designated as country parks for nature conservation, countryside recreation, and outdoor education (Figure 3). There are 24 country parks in Hong Kong that comprise scenic hills, woodlands, reservoirs, and coastline throughout Hong Kong. Every year, more than 13 million visitors are attracted to visit the country parks and embrace the development of eco-tourism in Hong Kong.

Figure 3: Country parks distribution Map. Source: HK government

Therefore, an efficient detection of wildfires / hill fires are critical task of Hong Kong Government to ensure public safety and health, as well as protecting our precious natural resources.

Hill fires often occur in dry autumn and winter. It was found that most of the hill fires are caused by human activities such as grave sweeps, barbecues and burning debris, etc. Traditional hill fires detection is done by human surveillance from watchtowers. There are drawbacks such as safety of the operators, insufficient manpower resources, as well as low visibility at night and in haze condition. During fire season from October to April, more resources are required, firefighters have to be on duty around the clock to detect and extinguish hill fires.

The Hong Kong government has now installed InsightFD robots at unattended watchtowers. Combining the power of AI and computer vision, the system can operate automatically 24×7. The built-in thermal sensor can detect flames as small as 2m2 and is faster than those reported by hikers or citizens. The Fire Management Centre team can view and investigate hotspots at their fingertips, as well as verifying potential fire reported by the public. All of these help the team spot hill fires and allocate firefighter resources more efficiently.

InsightFD early wildfire detection systems are protecting rural areas and important infrastructures in Hong Kong. Our advanced AI technology mitigates wildfire risks and damages more efficient and effective. The city is beautiful and mother nature always reminds us why we are doing what we are doing every day!

We wish everyone a peaceful holiday and a happy new year!

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