EnvironAI Inc.: Leveraging Cutting-edge AI to Tackle Wildfires

Aditya Shah, Founder and President

Throughout the last week of October, amid unprecedented, bone-dry winds, California seemed to erupt in slow motion—no sooner had firefighters contained one fire than another ignited. But California’s 2019 wildfire season has so far not proven worse than previous devastating years. Roughly 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) have burned statewide in 2019, compared with 765,000 in 2018, and 525,000 in 2017. In the past week, California saw 183 fires ignited, but most were quickly contained. Between proactive planning and investments—and no shortage of luck— firefighters have been extraordinarily successful in mitigating and fighting blazes in extreme weather conditions. While firefighters rely heavily on third-party weather data sources like the NOAA and manual models, they often benefit from complementing data with other sources of information. In some areas, no nearby weather station is available to monitor weather properties in and around a wildfire actively. Enter EnvronAI with their Intelligent Wildfire Prediction and Prevention (IFP2) offering that leverages Artificial Intelligence to help predict the probabilities for wildfires and assist first responders in planning for and containing blazes.

EnvronAI’s solution provides machine learning models that predict a forest fire and its path. A central hub orchestrates satellite imagery of dead fuel, weather, and other data into Intelligent and predictive analytics services. “Our focus is to measure and classify the dead-fuel in the forest using machine learning and use that information in conjunction with weather data to predict the possibility of wildfires,” says Aditya Shah, the founder and president, EnvironAI Inc. “This is a proactive effort to prevent wildfires from igniting rather than a reactive measure to content fire after the blaze,” Aditya adds.

Using AI for Social Good

Concerned by an increase in California wildfires, high school classmates Shah and Sanjana Shah (not related) joined forces in 2016. “Because of climate change, extreme weather events, like flooding, wildfires, and droughts, are on the rise,” says Aditya, the 18-year-old technopreneur.

Our solution uses satellite imagery and weather data to create a state of predictive opportunity which promotes the prevention of wildfires rather than cure

“We feel this urgency to protect the environment for later generations.”

The teenagers, who live in Cupertino, were already working in the field of environment protection and water conservation and wanted to use their science and tech knowledge to create long-lasting solutions. “Sanjana and I have been coding for a long time,” Aditya says. “Programming is essentially our second language. We have a good sense of solving problems by integrating hardware and software. We live in the heart of Silicon Valley, where we see a constant innovation in cloud computing and machine learning space. so, we thought about developing a platform that can take into account factors like wind speed, temperature, and humidity, and also use image recognition to identify the types of fuel in the area that contribute to a wildfire happening?”

Initially, Aditya and Sanjana built a Smart Wildfire Sensor, an integrated hardware setup that predicts the likelihood of fires before they start, with the potential to protect homes and lives and reduce firefighting costs. The sensor can be mounted to a tree and has two parts: a device that records and transmits weather data, and an embedded high-resolution camera that captures images of the biomass, the organic matter that ignites and spreads wildfires.

The Smart Wildfire Sensor

To cover the vast forest area and rough terrain often inaccessible to install the sensors, Aditya decided to use drones and satellite imagery to scan the forest for dead-fuel. Deployment of LiDAR technology, and the use of Tensorflow, Google’s open-source software library to classify the fuel type, further enhanced the accuracy of the results.

The software library receives information such as images and weather parameters for dataflow programming. They baked AI into the product to understand and compile the environmental landscape of a vast area as it is humanly impossible to scan vast areas physically, “This is where the role of the machine and artificial intelligence come in,” states Aditya.
To achieve the exact precision, they leveraged Google Tensorflow technology to analyze whether images from drones and satellites could aid the device in preventing wildfire.

“Our efforts to leverage Google technologies to mitigate wildfire risk were acknowledged by Google CEO Sunder Pichai,” Aditya proudly mentioned as he highlights the inspiring force behind EnvironAI.

With two young entrepreneurs at the helm, EnvronAI is genuinely revolutionizing the approach towards prediction & prevention of wildfire. For the future, the company plans to work proactively with government entities here in the US and countries like India, Sweden, and Australia. This partnership will use the historical analysis and construct near-real-time prediction models, which will be used for future planning on prioritization of forest management. The module developed can also be used for clearing defensible spaces, planning prescribed control burns, fuel hazard vegetation management, and reforestation programs.

EnvironAI offers an innovative solution to mitigate the risk of wildfires. “We are proud to mention that our solution is not limited to California. Recently we have received inquiries from the Governments of India, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden. Last summer, Aditya presented his innovation to Environment Ministry in India and Sweden.

Aditya proudly mentions his desire to use his skills to help India in its efforts in flood control, forest management, crop monitoring, and irrigation. EnvironAI team is also focused on finding a solution to the problem of rising pollution in New Delhi and other metros in India, posing substantial health challenges.

Aditya says, “EnvironAI is not limited to mitigate the wildfires risk only. Our mission is “AI for Mother Earth,” We are vowed to protect our environment using emerging technologies. Mr. Avinash Surve motivates Aditya, a distinguished authority in civil engineering and an expert in water resources management, to further expand EnvironAI’s mission globally. Aditya is looking forward to presenting his work to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in early 2020.

When asked about new year resolution, Aditya said: “The Year 2020 should be our greatest motivator to have a crystal-clear vision of what our earth should look like in the coming decades and leverage all our skills and efforts to save it.”