Dawn of the digital forest: Dryad Networks sets out plans for ultra-early wildfire detection solution

Environmental Internet of Things (IoT) start-up Dryad Networks has announced that it is developing a large-scale IoT network for the ultra-early detection of wildfires. Dryad’s digital forest solution will help public and private forest owners monitor, analyse and protect the world’s largest, most remote forests and tackle the devastating impact of wildfires on the environment, wildlife and communities.

Thanks to several ground-breaking innovations, Dryad’s large-scale IoT solution will use a network of sensors for detection of wildfires in under 60 minutes even in remote areas, enabling firefighters to extinguish wildfires before they spread out of control. By contrast, camera and satellite-based solutions can take several hours or even days to identify a fire because they rely on the smoke plume developing enough to be detected from a long distance.

Dryad’s vision is to digitise the world’s forests and help protect and regrow the world’s largest carbon sinks. Plans include supporting sustainable forest management by providing forest owners with insights into the health, microclimate and growth of their forests. This will also help them manage their estates more efficiently and profitably.

The solution comprises: solar-powered sensors that use AI to detect gases emitted from wildfires at the smouldering stage as well as temperature, humidity and air pressure; gateways featuring Dryad’s patent-pending distributed mesh network architecture – an extension to the LoRaWAN open standard for long-range radio IoT networks; and a cloud-based dashboard to analyse and monitor a wide range of indicators and alert forest managers.

Dryad’s gateways interconnect in a multi-hop mesh network, making it possible to cover very large forests rather than the 12km range typically supported by existing LoRaWAN gateways. This breakthrough technology makes it economically viable to build a communications network for large forests where there is no mobile network coverage. Dryad border gateways at the edge of the network connect to wireless (LTE/NB-IoT), satellite or wired internet to access the Dryad cloud platform.

Dryad, which secured seed funding of €1.8m in September 2020, is led by co-founder, CEO and serial telco entrepreneur Carsten Brinkschulte, who has a track record in building high-growth businesses. He said, “The notion of the intelligent forest is now coming of age. Our vision is to deliver an effective communications architecture for even the most remote forests and make sub one-hour wildfire detection the new reality. Using a solar-powered, distributed mesh IoT network capable of covering vast expanses of forest where mobile network coverage is lacking will radically transform the way forests can be monitored and managed.”

The team successfully tested a minimum viable product in a forest in Germany in May 2020, and has since secured ten letters of intent from forest owners in Germany and Africa.