Bushfires could be detected early and extinguished within minutes under a high-tech scheme designed to stop catastrophic disasters.
The Australian National University is teaming up with Optus to undertake advanced research to predict, identify and put out blazes before they become deadly.
The early stages of the program will trial long-range infra-red sensor cameras on towers in bushfire-prone areas of the ACT.
That will allow firefighters to monitor and identify bushfires before they get out of control.
Under the plan, satellites could be launched by 2022 to help spot and track fires, as well as deploy extinguishing technologies.
The project aims to develop innovative water gliders and autopilots to extinguish fires within minutes of ignition.
Recent ANU modelling shows investment in early bushfire detection could save Australia $8.2 billion over the next three decades.
Bushfires are expected to cost the nation $30 billion over the next 30 years.
ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt said last summer's bushfires cost lives and caused massive destruction to homes, the environment and infrastructure.
"That's why we are building an integrated defence system to protect Australia from catastrophic fires," he said.
"This will detect and attack fires before they grow. We hope to develop a system that can locate a fire within the first few minutes of ignition and extinguish it soon afterwards."
Optus network technology and satellite capability will be used, with both parties investing $6 million.
The program will also investigate how to use existing and new technologies including drones and robotics.
It will harness expertise and research in space, communications, computer vision, sensing systems, defence, data analytics and bushfire science.