Tech Innovation And AI: Transforming The Battle Against Global Wildfires
Wildfires have reached unprecedented levels globally due to climate change, posing immense challenges for firefighters like Phil Schneider. Artificial intelligence (AI) technology, such as Pano AI’s high-tech fire lookout system, revolutionizes wildfire management. AI, combined with panoramic cameras, offers real-time wildfire detection, significantly improving response times compared to traditional methods.
The wildfire tech industry, nearly non-existent five years ago, now boasts over 400 start-ups worldwide, offering many solutions, including satellite-based thermal imaging, firefighting robots, and drones equipped with infrared cameras.
Wildfires’ economic and human toll has been substantial, with Europe alone incurring an estimated €4.1 billion ($4.43 billion) in damages this year. Human infrastructures, such as power lines and climate change, contribute to the growing risk of wildfires. In response, US states like California and Oregon require that electric utility companies prepare for wildfire threats.
While AI technology is aiding in early detection, it’s just one part of wildfire management. Once detected, fires must be extinguished, a risky task for human firefighters. To reduce risks, companies like Shark Robotics are developing robots that can operate near fires, controlled by human firefighters from a safe distance.
However, these technologies are not yet widely adopted due to financial constraints and skepticism. Pano AI, for instance, charges approximately $50,000 per year for access to its AI-equipped fire lookout stations. Government funding is becoming available to aid wildfire preparedness, but allocating these funds to high-tech solutions remains to be determined.
Despite these challenges, technology is expected to play an increasingly vital role in firefighting efforts, offering additional tools to aid firefighters in their mission. Schneider believes that advancing technologies will continue to assist firefighters in their crucial work.