As the current climate crisis causes wildfires all around the world every day, the way governments and firefighting agencies used to battle wildfires are in need of fundamental change. Today’s digital environment brings new technologies in the fight against natural disasters. When wildfires grow and increase in numbers; today’s new technologies like satellites, drones, and AI help us improving our defence.
Despite its proximity to California’s wildfires, Silicon Valley was slow to adopt firefighting innovation until last year. Since then, startups started to enter the field, reaching for support from federal and state partners. So startups and research institutes are introducing new programs to predict fire behavior, monitor drought and even detect fires when they first start.
Andre Coleman, who is leading a team of researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, developed a system called RADR (Rapid Analytics for Disaster Response) that uses image-capturing technology from satellites, aircraft, drones, artificial intelligence and cloud computing to assess the impact of natural disasters, including wildfires. An expanded version of the tool, called RADR-Fire, can reveal wildfire boundaries multiple times a day and link impact and risk to structures, substations and other critical infrastructure in the landscape within minutes.
German company OroraTech is also building a constellation of 100 small satellites, which monitor the planet and report any fire larger than 10 meters, or about 33 feet, through thermal infrared cameras, within an hour of ignition. They raised $7 million in investments to build its global wildfire warning system which resembles Google Earth and shows not just the location of a fire, but also any surrounding spot fires, air particles, wind patterns and cloud cover. Users can also see, in real time, the direction dangerous air particles are traveling.
The first of these nanosatellites will launch in December with the help of the Silicon Valley-based Spire, a space-to-cloud data and analytics company, and Space X. Fourteen more satellites could launch by 2023.
And there are other companies that using space-based technology to monitor wildfires too. Chooch AI, San Francisco-based artificial intelligence company, also identifies where new fires started through a system analyzes satellite images every 10 minutes. And tech startup Salo Sciences teamed up with Planet, a satellite company founded by NASA scientists, to build a monitoring system called the California Forest Observatory, which uses AI and satellite images to create a detailed map of forested land in California to help predict and prevent wildfires.
With the climate change making wildfires one of our daily routine problems, firefighting techniques are going to be modernized towards AI, drones and satellites more and more. In order to fight those wildfires that burn hundreds of thousands of acres around the world, we are going to keep revolutionizing our methods with changing technologies as well.