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Dragon eggs to help put out US wildfires

Australian timber industry news - Wed, 30/11/2022 - 01:08
As US wildfires have grown larger and deadlier in recent years, one company is using drones and fire-starting “dragon eggs” to help prevent extreme blazes and save firefighters’ lives. Source: CNN Business Drone Amplified, a Nebraska-based start-up, is using unmanned aerial technology to improve one of the oldest and most-effective methods of preventing wildfires: prescribed burns. This technique refers to the controlled application of fire by a team of experts to reduce hazardous fuel in areas prone to wildfires. “More prescribed fires mean fewer extreme wildfires,” according to the US Forest Service. Carrick Detweiler, founder and CEO of Drone Amplified, told CNN that this method works by “doing a very low intensity burn that will basically burn up the dead leaves and sticks that would cause major wildfires when they dry out later in the summer.” The company was started by two University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineering professors in 2017. In 2020, it was awarded a grant totalling US$1 million for research and development from the National Science Foundation and Nebraska Department of Economic Development. “We can reduce these huge wildfires by using more fire, when it’s safe to do so,” Mr Detweiler added. While the technique of prescribed burns has been around for centuries (and was even used by Indigenous Americans for wildfire management), it can be laborious and risky at times for firefighters carrying it out today. Firefighters often must hike or ride an all-terrain vehicle through dense forest or mountainous terrain, carrying a drip torch to start small fires in specific, remote locations, according to Mr Detweiler. “Then you have helicopters with a whole crew on board, flying really low and slow over the fire,” he added of other methods for prescribed burns. “About a quarter of all wildland firefighting fatalities are related to aviation,” Detweiler said. “And for me, this really was a motivation to start Drone Amplified and get these systems into the hands of firefighters.” While he said a helicopter can cover a larger amount of area than a drone, he notes that firefighters can also deploy “tens or thousands of our systems for the same cost as a helicopter.” A drone from the company costs about US$80,000. The drones carry so-called “dragon eggs,” or fireballs that ignite when they land on the ground. “They have potassium permanganate,” Detweiler said of the dragon eggs, adding that when you mix this with glycol it starts a chemical reaction — resulting in a fire. Some 400 of these fireballs can be secured onto a single 50-pound drone. The drones allow firefighters to work at a distance from flames, according to Detweiler, and in areas that are difficult to reach due to terrain or visibility. Moreover, the firefighting technology can be used, “when it’s dark, when it’s smokey, and when other airplanes can’t be out there.” The drones, which are controlled by an app, can also allow the fire-starting balls to be dropped in very specific locations. Precision is a critical element when conducting prescribed burns, because it is crucial for preventing fire escapes. While escapes are rare — the US Forest Service reports just one escape for every thousand burns — the outcomes can be devastating. Two recent controlled burns in New Mexico escaped and led to the state’s largest wildfire on record. Mr Detweiler said his company’s equipment aims to prevent fire escapes through the use of thermal cameras, visual cameras and other technology that lets firefighters see through smoke. “Our app also allows the firefighter to put in geofences [boundaries] to prevent any ignitions outside of that area,” he added. While Drone Amplified is already being used by the US Forest Service and other federal agencies, Detweiler said he hopes to see the technology on the back of every firefighter’s truck in the future.

Canada log truck training program for job opportunities

Australian timber industry news - Wed, 30/11/2022 - 01:07
British Columbia province is providing more than Can$350,000 to Okanagan College in Vernon to deliver its professional logging truck driver training program. Source: Timberbiz The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction’s Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) project focuses on providing occupational training and work experience for Indigenous people and youth. “This project is empowering Indigenous people and youth by giving them new job opportunities in the professional logging sector,” said Nicholas Simons, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Participants who graduate from the program will receive the skills they need to find rewarding careers as professional logging truck drivers in the North Okanagan and Shuswap area.” Participants will receive 16 weeks of employability and occupational skills training, including the BC Forest Safety Council Professional Industry Driver theory and mentorship program, as well as MELT driver training, 10 weeks of on-the-job work experience with local employers, and three weeks of follow up support to prepare participants in their job search as professional logging truck drivers.

Artificial intelligence at work in wood logistics

Australian timber industry news - Wed, 30/11/2022 - 01:05
An entirely new operating method has been adopted for the wood logistics of Metsä Group’s Kemi bioproduct mill. It combines electrified rail transports, the weighing and reception of wood at wood terminals, artificial intelligence, and machine vision. Source: Timberbiz “The Kemi bioproduct mill receives two thirds of the wood it uses by train. Smooth rail logistics are essential to ensure that the bioproduct mill receives the volume of wood it needs,” says Hannu Alarautalahti, SVP, Production, Metsä Forest. Metsä Group’s Kemi bioproduct mill will start up in the third quarter of 2023. The new mill will use 4.5 million cubic metres more wood than the current mill. The wood procurement area will also expand. According to plans, one million cubic metres of the additional wood used will be imported from Sweden. Although the transport distances for raw wood to the Kemi mill will be longer, efficient rail transports will ensure emissions are reduced by 20% per cubic metre of wood. The trains running to the mill are loaded at eleven rail terminals operated by the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency. New wood terminals will be set up and old ones refurbished to handle the Kemi bioproduct mill’s wood supply. The terminals in northern Finland will be completed by the end of this year and the rest by the summer of 2023. In a new move, Metsä Group has invested in seven weighbridges for weighing timber lorries and receiving wood on arrival at the terminal instead of at the mill, as is currently the case. At the other rail terminals, the material machines that handle unloading are also used for weighing the wood. “We have invested several million euros in the weighbridges. By measuring wood at the terminals, we can increase the terminals’ capacity and add flexibility to train transports at the mill. Moreover, timber lorry drivers can unload their vehicles at the wood terminals at their own pace instead of having to coordinate deliveries with the loading schedules of trains,” says Alarautalahti. An indication of the importance of smooth logistics is that the Finnish railway company VR will provide carriages and engines for wood supply that will be used exclusively for the Kemi mill’s wood transports. “We’ve planned the railway logistics and infrastructure construction with the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency and VR Transpoint. This transport concept was created jointly to ensure the mill’s wood supply. We piloted the operating model in the autumn and found it worked well,” says Alarautalahti. “Wood delivery trains arrive at the bioproduct mill along Metsä Group’s new private track. The trains are weighed on arrival and departure with a rail weighbridge. We use dynamic weighing, which means the train does not need to stop for weighing but continues at an easy hourly pace of 8–10 kilometres along the track,” says Pasi Pulkkinen, VP, Logistics of the bioproduct mill project at Metsä Group. “The private track enables wood deliveries by electric engines to the mill. Wood unloading at the bioproduct mill is fully electrified. These are some of the investments that will help Metsä Group achieve fossil free mills by 2030,” says Pulkkinen. Timber lorries are weighed on arrival and departure, as is done at all mills. What is new is that vehicles and carriages are scanned during unloading. Scanning ensures that the wood can be automatically unloaded from both trains and timber lorries. We use entirely new technology, featuring artificial intelligence and machine vision,” says Pulkkinen. At the bioproduct mill, two autonomous woodyard cranes unload the rail carriages and timber lorries. After the loads have been scanned, artificial intelligence linked to the crane independently plans and carries out the unloading of wood for both vehicles and carriages. Seated in the debarking department’s control room, the crane operator supervises the unloading with the aid of screens and intervenes in the unloading process if necessary.

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by Dr. Radut