Engineers behind technology to map surface temperatures across Darwin CBD

Research engineers are mapping surface temperature across Darwin’s CBD using drone-mounted sensors to allow government agencies to evaluate the effectiveness of current heat mitigation projects in the city.
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In 2021 the Northern Territory Government released the Darwin Heat Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy. The strategy outlines the actions needed to address heat mitigation challenges in Darwin.

During the build-up to the wet season temperatures sit between 25°C overnight and 34°C during the day; when combined with high humidity, this can feel more like 42°C. In addition to these temperatures, a University of New South Wales 2017 study found the Darwin CBD contains Urban Heat Islands (UHIs) where temperatures are up to 2-3°C hotter than surrounding suburbs.

Charles Darwin University is working with the CSIRO-led Darwin Living Lab to develop the local capacity to monitor and evaluate heat mitigation projects in Darwin CBD, reducing UHI effects.

The Darwin Living Lab is part of the Darwin City Deal, a 10-year collaboration between CSIRO, the Australian and Territory Governments, and City of Darwin. The Lab will use information and data generated from the UHI project to help evaluate and inform interventions to improve liveability in Darwin CBD and across the city.

Research engineers at Charles Darwin University are using aerial (drone-based) radiography to map the thermal profile of the CBD at very fine resolution. This will generate orthorectified maps (corrected from optical distortions). It will also create three-dimensional models of the Darwin CBD with detailed radiometric information and high accuracy.

Dr Hooman Mehdizadeh-Rad CPEng NER MIEAust is an Engineers Australia Member and one of the Chief Investigators on the project.

He explained the first step is to develop the technique that will provide an accurate thermal profile of different places in Darwin. Then, the team will be able to use this information to evaluate the influence of different heat mitigation techniques on the UHIs.

“This study can help us to select the best heat mitigation strategies for different unique locations. These techniques could include cool paving, cool building envelopes, urban vegetation, and evaporative cooling such as water mists and fountains.”

The Darwin Heat Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy, released in 2021 shows there has already been significant investment in greening and shading initiatives in the city. For instance, the City of Darwin has planted more than 12,500 trees since 2018. It also details upgrades to Civic and State Square, State Square Art Gallery and the Cavenagh Street, which are all benefiting from heat mitigation projects.

Insights from the UHI project will help to further evaluate these efforts and direct future initiatives, helping to improve liveability for those living and working in Australia’s northernmost city.