An aerospace company based in the Edmonton area is deploying high-tech drones to help firefighters battle out-of-control wildfires.
Using artificial intelligence, the drones are capturing essential information to not only assist in managing flames, but also to keep those on the front lines safe.
“We are spending billions of dollars every year fighting fires like it’s 1975,” said Pegasus Imagery founder and CEO Cole Rosentreter.
“What we have to do is use technology to be smarter, safer and faster.”
Pegasus Imagery developed these drones and began its operation three years ago.
The drones are a reconnaissance tool equipped with an airborne radar. They use artificial intelligence to map and deliver real-time information about fires — day or night.
“We’re saving firefighters hours of walking around in muskeg up to their belt looking for a hot spot to put out,” Rosentreter said.
“We see that our information makes them safer. Maybe they don’t have to walk around for two hours. Maybe they just hop off a helicopter or truck and 10 minutes later they’re done.”
This is the first year the drones are on the front lines fighting wildfires. They’ve been used to help tackle several wildfire fires west of Fort McMurray and the Tomahawk fire west of Edmonton.
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“The information saves us resources — personnel-wise on the ground — and time, so we’re effectively targeting the areas we need to and we know what’s happening in that fire zone,” Parkland Fire Chief Brian Cornforth said.
Rosentreter said the drones are capable of flying for up to 10 hours, a much longer period of time than a typical commercial drone or most helicopters running on a single tank for fuel.
“This is a field of technology we’re glad to see in emergency management,” Cornforth said.
“I wish I had it in many occasions I was deployed across Alberta in events, and we look forward to working with this technology and increasing our intelligence on the ground level.”
Given the terrible fire season in British Columbia and other parts of the country, Pegasus has spoken to other provinces about using the technology. But a decision on whether governments want to adopt it is still up in the air.
The data-driven company also provides aerial information services for commercial use for other natural disaster cases such as floods.