XPRIZE Hosts Competition to Find Tech Solutions to Forest Fires

The organisation is working in collaboration with the governor of California to suppress forest fires before they start.

14.05.2019 | by Reve Fisher
Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash

XPRIZE Foundation is teaming up with the Governor of California to fight the forest fires that plague the state every year.

Dr. Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of XPRIZE, and Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, announced the competition at the New Future Summit in San Diego. The competition, which will commence in 2020, aims to generate innovative technologies to rapidly detect and extinguish wildfires.

Sadly, the present technology used to address these problems is decades behind its potential.

“I mean, we’re still trying to get old-time cameras out there in the forest”, Newsom stated, as reported by TechCrunch. “We still have an analog 911 system in the state of California. We have 234 of these Cal Fire forest stations. Over half of them are more than 50 years old, or dilapidated, falling down.

“People can’t even be pre-positioned out there. It is hard to describe how antiquated we are in this response. The first responders do an extraordinary job, and the mutual aid from around the world is second to none. But we shouldn’t just be celebrating that heroism on the back end. We should be celebrating the heroism and ingenuity on the front end.”

California’s 2018 fire season was the most destructive on record, as a total of 8,527 fires burned 1,893,913 acres, leading to almost 100 deaths. The fires caused $3.5 billion in damages, including $1.792 billion in fire suppression costs. Since 2015, the state has seen 10 of its deadliest fires in history, Newsom stated.

“Wildfires cause damage to human lives and billions of dollars in property loss each year yet there has been shockingly little innovation in this space,” Dr. Diamandis said in a statement. “XPRIZE wants to reinvent what has been an old form of firefighting. This competition hopes to leverage cutting edge sensors, networks, artificial intelligence, robotics and material sciences to both detect wildfires at their earliest inception and extinguish them before they spread.”

XPRIZE has designed and launched 17 prizes in several domain areas for 25 years, all with the aim to create industry-changing technologies that will benefit the world and protect the environment. This competition will be open to companies and individuals worldwide. Although the exact reward for the winning entries is yet to be determined, XPRIZE has awarded $140 million in prizes over the years.

“I am proud to stand with XPRIZE as they launch this competition,” Newsom proclaimed. “The XPRIZE will complement California’s spirit of innovation and promote leading-edge solutions to address wildfires.”

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