Lightning Lounge Recap: University of Montana’s Autonomous Aerial Systems Office Uses Oracle Cloud to Put Out the Fire

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By Mary Olson, Strategic Program Lead, Oracle Education & Research

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

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Although my background is in higher education technology, I had to quickly develop some fast-talking auctioneer skills as a guest participant in the Sept. 30, 2021, Internet2 Industry Lightning Lounge seminar. (Watch the recording of the event.)

Every few months, Internet2 gives industry vendors an opportunity to deliver a two-minute talk about a topic of interest to the higher education community, sort of like a TED talk on steroids.

Understanding Fire Behavior

As you’ll hear in this video, I discussed the University of Montana’s Autonomous Aerial Systems Office (AASO) and the work that Jennifer Fowler and her team are doing to improve our understanding of fire behavior. Fire command teams use models developed in the 1970s to predict how and where a fire will progress. Today, the apparent consequences of climate change underscore the need to have a better understanding of how to protect life and property during an active fire incident.

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The team at AASO is developing new models that combine multiple sources of data to dramatically improve the accuracy of fire behavior prediction. They have obtained hours of U.S. Forest Service footage of aerial images of 20 major wildfires in several states and combined that data with static GIS data and detailed weather data to develop new, more accurate models of fire outcomes.

Running these models on-premises would take over 60 hours to complete one iteration. They significantly reduced the runtime by moving to an HPC environment on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. The models are now complete in less than 24 hours. This “souped-up” performance and low latency enable the team to run many more iterations to improve the accuracy of the models.

As a Montana resident, I know what it’s like to experience wildfires burning all around my neighborhood. I, for one, can’t wait until these new, real-time models are available to help forest fire command teams in the United States and around the world.

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For more information, watch our four-part series produced with Internet2 that demonstrates how Oracle Cloud Infrastructure can help you solve complex technical problems, faster.