Description of Innovation

The Forest Areas Surveillance System for Early Detection of Forest Fires developed by the University of Patras uses the collaborative THEASIS tool which incorporates a) forest fire assessment models, b) drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), and c) static thermal and optical cameras for better design in forest fire prevention and response through data management. It is a flexible and scalable system with capabilities for autonomous monitoring and timely detection of forest fires, which has been applied to monitor and deal with fires in three (3) forest areas of the Balkans and the Mediterranean (Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus). This Innovation is a product of international and multilevel cooperation. Within the framework of the project, a pilot application was carried out, which highlighted the usefulness of mature technologies both for prevention and for the timely treatment and improvement of the Civil Protection and the Fire Brigade services’ quality.

Reasons for the development of Innovation

Two reasons led to the development of innovation:

• Achieving strategic and operational goals related to improving efficiency in the prevention and management of forest fires,

• Responding and adapting to technological developments in the framework of the European Territorial Cooperation for Forest Monitoring and Early Fire Detection and Assessment (SFEDA),

Until the beginning of the project, there was no hybrid system in place that could improve the data-based design to prevent the fire and even if it broke out, to enable the competent services to intervene in a timely manner and with the appropriate means to extinguish it.

Objectives of Innovation

The system was developed to protect forests, national parks and “Natura 2000” sites. The aim of the system is to achieve greater coverage of a geographical area (including "blind spots", by utilizing data obtained from the drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System), which will override/monitor the area of interest) and to improve the response capacity by reducing the required time, regardless of the weather conditions (strong winds, fog), but also to improve the response procedures for detecting the outbreak of fire. Also, the system allows the elimination of "false" alarms (i.e. 100% correct fire detection), while in the event of an incident, it allows to inform the residents of the wider area quickly (by the use of an application). Finally, the system improves decision-making regarding the assessment of the situation and the confirmation (or not) of the incident, the magnitude and the danger of the fire.

Innovation Results

The effectiveness of the application was proven by pilot tests in three forest areas in Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus. The experimental evaluation was done by the project implementation team based on the criteria set by the Fire Department. The measurement was made by detecting the onset of controlled fires in less than 3 minutes for 2km. The system showed high reliability as it confirmed the existence of fire in the tests and there was no margin for incorrect alarm. The pilot application did not proceed with large-scale trials due to the pandemic.  
The innovation was completed in the pilot phase

Design stage

The system was designed by three teams, coming from the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering and the Department of Computer Engineering and Informatics of the University of Patras, in collaboration with the Decentralized Administration of the Region of Western Greece and the Forest Institute. In addition, there was international cooperation with the involvement of foreign actors. All partners participated in the first two work packages, Project Management and Communication and Dissemination of Results. The design of the innovation was carried out by the following steps: The specifications were determined in collaboration with the partners who have the supervision of the forests as well as the Fire Department. The three Universities, the University of Patras, the Ruse University "Angel Kanchev", the Cyprus University of Technology and the Forest Research Institute processed this information. The literature was then examined to find corresponding systems and these systems were evaluated (results of this process were published in a scientific journal). Theasis was designed and implemented by the three Universities. Visualization algorithms, traffic planning packages of SMEAs, hazard maps, and other systems were developed. Each University chose the systems that were necessary for the implementation in each forest in its area (e.g. in Bulgaria the system had fixed optical cameras and SMEA with fixed wings due to the large area).

Pilot application stage

The project is part of the Interreg Balkan-Med program which is co-financed by the EU and national resources. The duration was about 30 months. Prior to the start of the project, there was a decision for the project to join financing, a partnership agreement and a subsidy contract signed by all partners. Human resources: About 35 collaborators worked either partially or throughout the project. The research was carried out at the partners' premises and the tests in the forest areas. In addition, the use of 10 computers, 3 static cameras, 6 SMEA and at least one pickup car was required. The project was implemented in six work packages: 1. Project management. 2. Communication and dissemination of results. 3. Analysis and evaluation of test sites. 4. Design and implementation of Theasis system. 5. Complete the Theasis system. 6. Pilot tests, seminars and training.


The project was the result of a multilevel cooperation of institutions at national and international level. The project partners were: A. University of Patras, Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering (University of Patras, Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics Department, Greece). B. Decentralized Administration of Peloponnese, Western Greece and Ionian Islands (Decentralized Administration of Peloponnese, Western Greece & Ionian, Greece) C. Hellenic Agricultural Organization Dimitra-Institute of Forest Research (Hellenic Agricultural Organization DEMETER - Forest Research Institute, Greece) D. "Angel Kanchev" - Department of Telecommunications (University of Ruse "Angel Kanchev", Department of Telecommunications, Bulgaria) E. Directorate of Park Rusenski Lom, (Directorate of Nature Park Rusenski Lom, Bulgaria) F. Cyprus University of Technology G. G. Pano Platres Community Council, Cyprus 1: Hellenic Fire Corps, Greece (1 Hellenic Fire Corps, Greece) I. Observer 2: Kotyhi-Strofylia Wetlands Management Body (Greece) Forest Research Institute was the main partner in work unit 3, due to experience and knowledge in forest dispersal models. Modules 4 and 5 were implemented by the University of Patras, the Cyprus University of Technology and the University of Ruse with the support of the Decentralized Administration of Peloponnese, Western Greece and the Ionian Islands, the administration of Rusenski Lom Park and the community of Pano Platron. The educational institutions had conducted research in corresponding applications on issues, e.g. visual identification, finding the best route, communication between systems, writing code, etc. There was also a significant contribution of the management body of the wetlands of Kotychi-Strofilia as well as the Fire Department. The specific observer partners clearly stated their needs and experience on relevant issues for the timely identification of forest fires. Working section 6 was implemented by all stakeholders, as it concerned the pilot implementation of the systems, their evaluation and training on the implementation of the Theasis system. The way of communication between the partners was determined based on a communication plan. During the project, depending on the work packages, the partners communicated with each other through meetings in electronic form, exchange of e-mails and progress reports. Finally, the partners who were in the same country also held live meetings.


Financing and costs

The total cost of the pilot project amounted to approximately 1.4 million euros. Of these, about 300,000 euros are staff costs, about 50,000 euros are overhead costs, about 100,000 euros for travel, about 450,000 euros for external partners, about 500,000 euros for equipment, and 4,500 euros for infrastructure. There was an absorption of 90%. The cost of developing the system corresponds to about 22000 a / h without taking into account the a / h of unpaid associates (e.g. DM, faculty members) and a / h from support services which are included in the overhead costs (e.g. .x. ELE University of Patras). The distribution among the partners was as follows: University of Patras: Approximately 395K euros. Decentralized Administration of Peloponnese, Western Greece & Ionian: Approximately 110K euros. Hellenic Agricultural Organization DEMETER - Forest Research Institute: Approximately 140 K euros. University of Ruse "Angel Kanchev": Approximately 270 K euros. Directorate of Nature Park Rusenski Lom: About 110 K euros. Cyprus University Of Technology: Approximately 270 K euros. Pano Platres Community Council: Approximately 105 K euros. The equipment market involved SMEAs, static cameras, computers, containers, generators, photovoltaics, a car and everything else needed to set up the three pilot tests. The external collaborators worked on the project for the development of the system itself, but also for minor tasks such as organizing meetings / workshops, conference expenses, etc. The cost of travel was related to travel for semi-annual meetings and for field research.

Human resources: About 35 collaborators worked either partially or throughout the project. The research was carried out at the partners' premises and the tests in the forest areas. In addition, the use of 10 computers, 3 static cameras, 6 SMEA and at least one pickup car was required.

Challenges and solutions during design, testing and implementation

The main problems that hinder the implementation of innovation can be summarized as follows:

A. The legislation in Greece and Cyprus did not allow the autonomous flight of SMEA. In Bulgaria, the legislation until 2020 posed no restrictions.

B. The problem of property even in the forest. Time-consuming procedures were required to obtain the necessary permits for the temporary installation and implementation of the pilot tests.

C. Lack of financial tools for the continuation of the project.

D. The bureaucracy was an obstacle to the implementation of the project. This has led to time consuming procedures for the research process required (e.g. time between travel cost approval and weather-dependent field research).

E. The proposed application is a new technology which presupposes administrative and organizational changes both at the level of civil protection and at the level of forest protection and firefighting.

Assessment - description of the necessary conditions for success and sustainability of innovation

For the implementation of the system, but also the conditions of success and sustainability of the innovation, resources should be provided for the installation and maintenance of the system, while at the same time the personnel that will operate the system should be properly trained. In addition, the Fire Department could in the future, adopt the system and improve the services it offers, and at the same time with additions, it can be used for other natural disasters, such as floods, facilitating the work of the Fire Department. Finally, it is proposed to form a favorable framework for the use of SMEA by services such as the Fire Department.

  Experiences, thoughts, findings

International experience has shown that this innovation is an application that can be implemented. Efforts are already being made in Bulgaria and Cyprus to implement it. The proposed application is a system of special importance and added value for the state mechanism for dealing with the consequences of climate change.

Agency: University of Patras, Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering & Department of Computer Engineering and Informatics

Level of government: Regional

 Policy area: Public Order and Security, Environment and Climate Change

 Design Year: 2019

 Type of Innovation: Design and service delivery, Data management and decision making

 Innovation Stage: Pilot Implementation

 Beneficiaries: General population, Public Organizations, Educational Institutions / Universities

 Number of beneficiaries: 100 people

 Sources of Funding: “ESPA”







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