Bushfire Prevention Tool to Ignite Spatial Conference

Australia’s largest vegetation management company is using cutting-edge mapping technology to combat a key cause of the dangerous bushfires and blackouts that plague the nation each year: severed powerlines.

Using technology from Geographic Information System (GIS) specialists Esri Australia, Active Tree Services developed a high-tech vegetation monitoring and management system which layers detailed maps of electricity networks over weather and vegetation data.

Powerlines severed by falling branches during extreme weather have been linked to several bushfires in recent years, including the 2009 Victorian Black Saturday tragedy that claimed a total of 173 lives.

Over the past summer, fears that extreme heat and high winds would lead to severed powerlines and more bushfires led to electricity cuts in large parts of South Australia, while thunderstorms and scorching temperatures caused similar concerns in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

Active Tree Services Chief Information Officer Justin Sheppherd said there was a need for a new approach to vegetation management.

“Trees around powerlines can lead to increases in the risk of electricity supply disruptions and bushfires,” Mr Sheppherd said.

“Systems are needed to comprehensively identify and complete maintenance work to reduce these risks and meet compliance standards.

“GIS technology enables us to map large amounts of information about the condition and location of vegetation around powerlines, which in turn results in better reporting and clearer transparency about the risk to the network.”

Mr Sheppherd said their GIS-driven vegetation management system allowed information to be uploaded directly to a centralised data portal.

“We then integrate this information with other layers of data displaying management histories, tree species and other factors,” Mr Sheppherd said.

“The end result is a detailed picture of the state of the nation’s electricity network – helping us ensure every branch along the powerlines we monitor is properly maintained.”

Active Tree Services’ vegetation management system will be on-show this September at Ozri 2012 - Australia’s leading GIS technology event.

Ozri 2012 Technical Director Kellie Persson said Active Tree Services’ had been selected to present at the conference as they showcase one of the most advanced and robust asset data collection and management systems in the world.

“Through their creative use of GIS technology, Active Tree Services have created an interactive, digital dashboard of their areas of operation – which provides a level of insight and situational awareness that previously wasn’t available,” Mrs Persson said.

“For example, while a current vegetation management cycle might dictate trees near powerlines in a certain area should be cut back every three years, other uncontrollable external factors may come into play, such as drought or flood.

“GIS technology enables Active Tree Services to analyse these scenarios and delay or bring forward the cycle, which results in a safer environment, reduces over or under-servicing and delivers more efficient resource use.

“It’s a best practice asset management model that users from any industry can take inspiration from – and will certainly be a talking point amongst more than 500 leading GIS professionals attending Ozri 2012.”

Hosted by Esri Australia, the market leader in Australia’s $2.1 billion spatial industry, Ozri 2012 is the largest GIS conference in the Asia Pacific.

To register for Ozri 2012, visit www.esriaustralia.com.au/ozri

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