Artificial intelligence (AI) is being utilized as a tool to combat wildfires around the world. As wildfires become more frequent and intense due to climate change, firefighters, utilities, and governments are turning to AI technology for assistance. For example, California’s main firefighting agency is testing an AI system that monitors over 1,000 mountaintop camera feeds, which detect abnormal smoke patterns and alert emergency command centers. Similar systems are being used by startups like Pano AI, which mounts cameras on cell towers to scan for smoke and alert customers, such as fire departments and utility companies. These AI-enabled cameras help reduce fatigue among staff and improve response times by only alerting them to potential fire or smoke incidents.
Furthermore, AI is also being used to predict the likelihood of fires starting in certain areas. Microsoft has developed AI models that analyze historic weather and climate data to identify patterns and determine areas that are at higher risk. While it cannot predict random events like lightning strikes, it can help first responders allocate their limited resources effectively.
In addition to ground-based AI systems, German startup OroraTech has launched mini satellites into low orbit to analyze satellite images and provide thermal imaging of fires. By utilizing AI algorithms, these satellites can detect fires more quickly and accurately, taking into account environmental factors like vegetation and humidity levels. This information helps firefighting agencies direct their resources to areas where the fires could cause the most damage.
While AI technology brings new possibilities for combating wildfires, it is important to note that human validation is still necessary to confirm any smoke or fire sightings. AI systems provide assistance to firefighters and emergency personnel, but their accuracy and reliability rely on human oversight. Nonetheless, the integration of AI technology has the potential to transform firefighting efforts and improve response times in the face of increasingly severe wildfires.