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Harmless: Satellite Navigation for the management of forest fires

INSA, together with the Comunity of Madrid’s Forest Fighting Services, carried out a simulation to test the use of navigation systems for the management of forest fires in a real and controlled scenario, in a simulated emergency situation.



HARMLESS is a European initiative managed within the VI Framework Programme by the GNSS Supervisory Authority. Its main objective is to research and promote the use of the European navigation satellite systems Galileo and EGNOS in the areas of emergency management, humanitarian aid and law enforcement. HARMLESS is a project developed by an industrial consortium participated by INSA (Ingeniería y Servicios Aeroespaciales, S.A.), NEXT, EADS Astrium France and EADS SN France, Infoterra UK, NSL, Map Action and IIASL, being coordinated by GMV.

HARMLESS dedicates a big effort in carrying out real simulations to test satellite navigation systems’ capabilities and to analyze, together with end users, real benefits of the systems.

INSA activities in forest fires

Ingeniería y Servicios Aeroespaciales accumulates more than 10 years in defining space systems and providing space-based applications intended to improve the efficiency of forest fire fighting services as well as to enhance the safety of the fire brigades.

Among the systems in operational use, REMFIRESAT combines the use of satellite-based navigation, telecommunications and Earth observation, providing at advanced command posts the real time position of fire fighting units and updated meteorological and hot spot information.

INSA has taken leading positions in the on-going GMES consortia dedicated to emergency management, being in charge of forest fire applications, such as RISK-EOS, PREVIEW and the forthcoming Emergency Core service. Under operational contract, it provides services to the Spanish ministries of Interior (Civil Protection) and Environment, as well as various regional authorities in charge of the fire management.

INSA in the Programme
Ingeniería y Servicios Aeroespaciales has as its main objective within the programme to test geo-location and communication capabilities and to study the benefits that navigation systems represent for emergency management, especially for firefighting services.

Forest fire task force of the Community of Madrid’s General Directorate for the Environment. Simulation with real personnel and operations.

A simulation to test the use of navigation systems for the management of forest fires was carried out in a real and controlled scenario, in a simulated emergency situation. Although fire was not present, its simulation allowed the task force to:

• Select the appropriate staff and resources
• Plan and carry out different exercises aimed to cover each of the phases of an emergency situation: preparation and prevention, alert and fire-control and the last one: analysis.

Preparation and prevention exercises allowed the acquisition of precise and reliable information about the test scenario, such as:

• Infrastructures’ cartography
• Access routes and its actual condition
• Selection of the best routes
• Planning of each of the exercises to be carried out in the next phases

Alert and fire-control tests simulated fire detection operations and the subsequent firefighting. Command Centers located the crisis scenario, managed resources allocation, followed firefighting operations and controlled staff security.

Final Analysis was based in information gathered during the simulation:

• Precise definition of the affected area
• Vehicles trajectories
• Operations diary

This information was used on the one hand to analyze operations efficiency during test exercises and on the other hand to test the benefits of navigation systems.

Simulation task force

Simulation was carried out by a team composed of twelve professionals, seven vehicles (soft and heavy fire trucks and 4×4 vehicles) and two command centers.

Both simulation vehicles (equipped with INSA-supplied hardware, currently in use in the whole Community of Madrid Forest Fire Fleet) as well as firefighting personnel where equipped with GPS receptors with EGNOS corrections and communicators that allowed sending real time positions and alert messages via satellite to the Command Centers.

Both Command Centers, one of them static and the other one portable, located in the battle field near the emergency, received real time information generated by the vehicles and personnel and visualized it through fleet management applications.

Real environment where forest firefighting activities take place is very hostile: poor visibility, high temperature, very low humidity and in the worst case, very high wind. Orography is very irregular and access routes can be in a bad condition or even no exist at all. Communications coverage is highly variable from one point to the next and in some cases there can be no coverage (except maybe via satellite).

Firefighting operations demand increasingly more and more technology that on the one hand allows them to operate more successfully and with a higher degree of security in such a hostile environment and on the other hand helps them to minimize the devastating effects of forest fires.

Navigation systems and fleet and personnel management applications are highly valuable tools, as them allow forest firefighting services to:

• Know in every moment where the personnel and vehicles are
• Increase operations management efficiency
• Make rescue operations easier

Source INSA