Artificial intelligence can now help fight wildfires

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Posted on: July 16, 2020 5:40 pm EDT

AI innovation is finding a place in detecting and warning about wildfire hotspots

The areas where artificial intelligence (AI) can bring benefits are truly countless. In Utah, some firefighters are being helped by AI tools in order to detect wildfires even before the flames are visible. This is possible thanks to the EDWIN Project (Early Detection Wildfire Imaging Network) that uses AI-powered cameras to look for hot spots in wildfires among the hills along portions of the Wasatch Front.
These thermal imaging cameras were developed by UTOPIA Fiberthey and have already been installed in Layton, Murray and Woodland Hills for a BETA test.

Actually, the implementation of these tools has already helped to put out a fire, “Their A.I. cameras caught the early stages of a brush fire in Woodland Hills on July 6,” said Bob Knight, spokesman for UTOPIA Fiber. In this case, the crews were able to extinguish the flames before they consumed too much land. “Wildfires can cost anywhere from $44,000 to $215,000 per minute,” said Knight. “So having early detection of these hot spots can not only save lives, but also millions of dollars in economic losses.”

These thermal cameras are positioned in a way that they can conduct scans of all the hills of Utah’s mountains. At the moment in which one of these devices detects a hot spot, the AI in the computer automatically sends a message about a potential wildfire to local fire departments; and all this happens long before there is any visible smoke. Each of these cameras has a cost of $20,000, which seems quite pricey, but considering that the US spends between $71 billion and $350 billion each year fighting wildfires, that amount seems insignificant. This data was shared by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Department of Commerce.