As summer approaches, and with it the increased threat of fires, one innovative tech start-up is fighting bushfires in an unconventional way.
Instead of suits, fire trucks and water bombers, tech company PANO AI is fighting fires with artificial intelligence.
Senior officials from the San Francisco based company were in Tumut in NSW's Riverina this week to launch the company's expansion into the Australian market.
PANO AI detects, assesses and pinpoints bushfires, enabling quick and efficient containment enabling emergency services to stop them before they get out of control.
Deploying cameras placed on towers high above the region, they scan the land continually with 360-degree ultra-high-definition camera and artificial intelligence to spot a bushfire within a 24 kilometre radius.
In 2019, parts of the eastern Riverina were ravaged by major bushfires that threatened communities including Batlow, Adelong, Tumbarumba and Tumut.
And while the region is currently experiencing its third La Nina since then, this has also led to a significant increase in undergrowth foliage, sowing the seeds for a renewed fire risk with summer now on our doorstep.
"We're in Tumut for a forum with our forestry customers as part of our Australian tour through Melbourne, Tumut, Noosa and Sydney to formally launch PANO's second presence in Australia outside the US," PANO AI Australia head Andrew Prolov said.
Mr Prolov said the company deployed its first station in the region last summer and has been working closely with forestry companies in Tumut.
PANO AI Chief Commercial Officer Arvind Satyam grew up in Sydney but has spent over 15 years living in Califorina's Silicon Valley.
California, like NSW, has experienced extreme bushfires in recent years and Mr Satyam believes "something has got to give."
"We always believed Australia would be a very important market because of the high fire risk and also because of the innovation that comes out here," he said.
"We wanted to make sure we stay close to the people at the front lines of fire and emergency response.
"Australia and the US have a trusted collaboration [in this area]."
Indeed, the company is already partnering with the NSW Rural Fire Service to fight fires in the Riverina with cameras deployed high above the region's east.
"Last season we actually spotted a few fires in Wagga from the stations located closer to Tumut," Mr Prolov said.
"That gives you just a sense [of how good] the visibility is on a day with clear skies."
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The cameras are also helping to monitor fires along the Hume Highway.
"The Wagga RFS was actually able to benefit... keeping track of all the permits they issued to [people on] agricultural land west of the Hume," Mr Prolov said.
"So the intersection of forestry and agriculture is... very important."
Mr Prolov said traffic along the Hume Highway also posed a significant fire risk.
"Vehicle fires are one of the greatest potential threats for starting bushfires [with the combination of] a hot engine, dry grass and it just runs off from there," he said.
"So, we're protecting that safety barrier around the region and its visibility."
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