How is AI Making Forests Safer from Fires?

K. C. Sabreena Basheer 19 Jun, 2023 • 3 min read

When wildfires ravaged California, turning the skies orange and leaving devastation in their wake, a groundbreaking startup stepped up to fight back. Chooch, a Silicon Valley-based leader in computer vision, combined the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision to revolutionize wildfire detection. By leveraging their innovative technology, Chooch successfully provided real-time alerts to firefighters, enabling faster response and preventing further damage. In this article, we explore how Chooch’s AI-driven solution is transforming wildfire detection and saving lives.

The tech firm Chooch has combined artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision to detect wildfires and save forests in California.

A Personal Mission to Combat Wildfires

When California faced the catastrophic 2020 wildfires, Chooch’s CEO, Emrah Gultekin, felt a personal calling to help. Collaborating with fire officials, they discovered that the existing wildfire detection system suffered from numerous false positives caused by factors such as fog, rain, and lens smudges. Determined to make a difference, Chooch embarked on a pilot project to integrate their fire detection software with the camera network, leveraging the power of AI and computer vision.

The Power of Generative AI: Reducing False Positives

Chooch’s CTO, Hakan Gultekin, and his team devised a solution to combat false positives. They developed a generative AI tool capable of automatically creating descriptions for each image, assisting reviewers in identifying the presence of smoke accurately. As a result, the number of false positives decreased dramatically, from a staggering 2,000 per week to just eight. The breakthrough technology garnered excitement from fire chiefs, who eagerly anticipated integrating it into their monitoring centers.

Real-Time Alerts: Empowering Firefighters in Kern County

Chooch’s generative AI tool provides firefighters in California’s Kern County with a real-time dashboard accessible via smartphones and PCs. This dashboard delivers instant alerts, enabling firefighters to detect wildfires swiftly. Given that California witnessed 9,900 wildfires in 2020, which burned 4.3 million acres and incurred losses amounting to $19 billion, the timely detection of even one fire could justify the wildfire detection system’s cost for the next 50 years.

Chooch's AI model detected a wildfire in Kern County, California and managed to save the forest.

A Promising Future: Expanding AI Applications

Emrah Gultekin envisions an even more powerful and accurate future for AI and computer vision. By combining large language models with computer vision, Chooch aims to develop products that are effective and easy to deploy. For instance, utilities can utilize the software to connect with drones and fixed cameras, enabling the detection of corrosion on capacitors or vegetation encroaching on power lines. Chooch’s technology is set to receive further validation through its participation in the $11 million Xprize challenge, which focuses on wildfire detection and response, with notable sponsors, including PG&E and Lockheed Martin.

AI drones and cameras with computer vision can help detect wildfires and save forests in time.

The Road to Success: Collaboration and Cutting-Edge Technology

Chooch’s journey towards revolutionizing wildfire detection began when they joined NVIDIA Inception, a program dedicated to fostering cutting-edge startups. Collaborating with NVIDIA, Chooch successfully ported their code to NVIDIA GPUs, enabling their products to run on NVIDIA Jetson modules. The technology has been extensively tested, incorporating full-motion video and multispectral data, showcasing its robustness and effectiveness in real-world scenarios.

NVIDIA has partnered with the tech firm Chooch to develop a wildfire detection AI model.

Our Say

Chooch’s integration of AI and computer vision technology has become a game-changer in the realm of wildfire detection. This innovative solution significantly reduces false positives, provides real-time alerts, and empowers firefighters. It thus has the potential to save lives, protect valuable resources, and mitigate the devastating impact of wildfires. As Chooch continues to refine its technology and expand its applications, the future looks promising. We are yet to see AI’s full potential in combating wildfires and other critical challenges we face as a society.

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