Discover How Pano AI works to detect wildfires in Colorado
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Wildfires are a growing threat in Colorado, where the state has experienced five of its largest fires in history in the last five years. To combat this challenge, a new technology is being deployed to help fire professionals detect and respond to fires as soon as possible.
The technology is called Pano AI, and it consists of a network of high-resolution cameras that scan the forests every minute, 24 hours a day, and send the images to a cloud-based artificial intelligence algorithm that can identify smoke and fire. The system can also triangulate the location of the fire using multiple cameras, and alert the fire authorities with critical information.
Pano AI is a San Francisco-based company that developed and operates the technology. The company has already installed cameras in several locations in Colorado, including Telluride, Beaver Creek, Vail, Aspen and Boulder. By the end of 2023, there will be 40 Pano installations in the state, covering some of the most fire-prone areas.
Xcel Energy invests in Pano AI to mitigate wildfire risks
One of the biggest investors in the technology is Xcel Energy, the largest electricity provider in Colorado, which announced on Tuesday that it has committed to installing 21 stations, each with two cameras, by the end of the year. The company said that the technology is part of its wildfire mitigation plan, which also includes managing vegetation around power lines, increasing inspections, covering bare conductors and using helicopters and laser radar to check line clearances and for overloaded poles.
Xcel Energy has been under scrutiny since the 2021 Marshall fire, the most destructive fire in Colorado history, which destroyed more than 1,000 homes and businesses in Boulder County and caused an estimated $2 billion in damage. County officials said that one of the causes of the fire was an Xcel Energy distribution line that had come loose in the high winds. The utility disputes the finding but is facing lawsuits from homeowners and businesses.
Xcel Energy CEO Bob Frenzel said on a recent earnings call that the company is looking at more capital investment for wildfire planning, and that it expects a litigation calendar sometime early next year. He said that the company has 675 plaintiffs and that the number could grow. In 2022, state regulators approved $23.5 million in wildfire mitigation investments for Xcel Energy as part of its electric rate case.
One of the camera units will be placed in the Marshall area, another near Fort Collins and one near Golden. However, fire officials said that the greatest benefit of the technology will likely be in detecting fires in remote areas that are not easily visible to people.
Pano AI: A game-changer for fire professionals in Colorado
The technology is a modern upgrade from the old fire tower with a lone fire watcher armed with binoculars and a mechanical fire finder. Pano AI’s cameras can see 20 miles out and switch to near infrared at night to detect heat signatures. The cameras rotate 360 degrees every minute and can be controlled manually by a human operator or go into scanning mode.
Pano AI’s chief commercial officer, Arvind Satyam, said that the company uses deep learning and computer vision to automatically detect, verify and classify wildfire events in real time. He said that the company’s software enables real-time viewing and triage of wildfire alerts, and built-in communication tools to get information out to the field.
Telluride Fire Chief John Bennett said that the technology is a new tool to help with early detection, which can make a big difference in containing fires before they become too large and dangerous. He said that the technology has already helped his department respond to several fires this year.
“We are very excited about this technology,” Bennett said. “It is a game-changer for us.”
What is the cost of Pano AI?
The cost of Pano AI varies depending on the customer and the number of stations installed, but the typical pricing is $50,000 per station per year. This means that a customer who installs 21 stations, such as Xcel Energy, would pay $1.05 million for the service each year. Pano AI also raised $20 million in 2022 at a post-money valuation of $90 million, followed by another $17 million in 2023.
How accurate is Pano AI in detecting wildfires?
Pano AI claims that its artificial intelligence algorithm and panoramic cameras detect wildfires with high accuracy. According to one source, Pano AI’s system identifies fires with a 90% or higher accuracy rate. Pano AI employs a proprietary algorithm to calculate the exact latitude and longitude of the fire, which is extremely useful for fire response teams. However, the accuracy of Pano AI may be affected by factors such as weather, network connectivity, and human verification.
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