UAE students design award-winning wildfire fighting system

UAE students design award-winning wildfire fighting system

FireOut, a firefighting system designed by five engineering students from Heriot-Watt University to control wildfires in regions suffering from recurring outbreaks, has won the 2022 National James Dyson Award.

The students – Tasneem Nawar, Deenah Sabaahat, Eman Rashid, Zahid Rehman and Zahrah Tungekar – spotlighted areas that typically suffer bushfires and wildfires due to drought and dry seasons, but also receive heavy rainfall in wet seasons. Their research led them to design a ystem that stores rainwater during the wet season and use it for controlling bushfires in the dry season.

The winning team has received a cash prize of Dh24,000, to be used towards the next phase of development. FireOut, along with runners up YESCOMPST and IoT integrated power shaft health condition monitoring, will progress to the international stage of the James Dyson Award. The international shortlist will be announced next month, and the international winners in November.

FireOut uses a sensor camera that, upon fire detection, alerts a control room which then transmits the location of the wildfire over radio modules aided by antennas. Upon receiving signals, the controllers automatically operate the pump, distributing the collected rainwater from the tower to the sprinklers that project water to bring the fires under control until the first responders arrive. Once brought under control, the pumps can be closed ready for the towers to collect rainwater again.

Existing technologies currently only detect wildfires and wait for first responders to arrive to the scene, which can result in rapid spread of the fire that causes additional loss to land and wildlife.

FireOut’s design of a rainwater storage system, sensor cameras and a communication system can allow large quantities of water to be pumped to sprinklers when needed. This results in the extinguishing process starting well before the first responders arrive, saving time, life, and land.

Speaking to Gulf News, Rashid, one of the student inventors, said: “We were all horrified by the devastating bushfires we have saw in the media over the last few years, particularly in places like Australia. We were shocked by the devastation caused and the number of habitats that are destroyed as a result, which is why we knew urgent action is needed.”

His teammate Rehman added: “Coming up with an idea of this scale and testing it was not easy. Our first hurdle was trying to make all materials used as fire resistant and sustainable as possible. Another challenge we faced was the collection of water and trying to calculate how much store water would be enough for each land mass.

“Additionally, we wanted everything to be locally sourced and sustainable, so that created an additional challenge with sourcing and cost of materials. We wanted our design to be specific to the location and to respect the local land and people.”