A small unmanned aerial vehicle flying in the sky.

Aerospace start-up revolutionizes firefighting with artificial intelligence and drone technology

AI and Technology
Published On
August 10, 2021

Businesses in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region are using cutting-edge innovation across many fields, including artificial intelligence to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges and providing solutions for real-life, time-sensitive issues. Pegasus Imagery is a local tech firm that has developed some of the most cutting-edge technology at the intersection of drone manufacturing, AI, and environmentalism. Now, Pegasus is using that technology to revolutionize the way we combat one of nature’s biggest threats—wildfires.  

 Wildfires have become a growing threat, a direct result of climate change, and unfortunately, that threat isn’t going anywhere soon. According to the Canadian Interagency for Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), there are 8000 wildfires annually, with 2.5 million hectares of land burned every year. By the end of the century, fire seasons are expected to become three times more severe and last approximately 20 days longer. The likeliness of more wildfire devastations like those experienced by Fort McMurray in 2016 or Lytton, BC, just this past June is increasing. 

AI solutions: harnessing the power of real-time data for proactive response

At a time when wildfire is at the top of everyone’s minds, we’re all looking for solutions. Understanding the imperative for effective and quick solutions, Pegasus has put wildfire fighting at the heart of its operations. Canada has been using drone technology to help fight wildfires for the past three years, but the drones being manufactured at Pegasus rely on military-grade technology like machine learning and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) regulation, which the company worked with Transport Canada to establish. Pegasus’ implementation of this technology allows their drones to detect wildfires and hotspots from up to 10 kilometres away while in flight, even in smoky conditions or at night. 

 “Our aircraft use military-grade infrared sensors to detect hotspots and locations in real-time,” explains Cole Rosentreter, CEO of Pegasus Imagery. “We fuse this with live video and AI to map fires, producing maps and imagery products that give decision-makers actionable information in minutes, not hours.”  

 Current technologies use helicopters or other manned aircraft where fire mapping relies on visibility and can only take place during the day. The ability to fly beyond the visual line of sight gives Pegasus drones the advantage of being able to map fires at night when changes are most likely to occur. Tactical responses can become more proactive, rather than just reactive; first responders are able to have a faster, more accurate understanding of each wildfire, and are able to respond more effectively. Unlike standard commercial drones, which fly for up to only two hours, these drones can fly for up to 10 hours before needing to be recharged. This feature allows Pegasus’ drones to travel further to gather more information about each wildfire, much faster than before.  

Successful partnership with Parkland County Emergency Management saved critical structures in summer 2021  

Cole and Pegasus have already had great success with their technology through a recent partnership with Parkland County. During the Tomahawk fire this summer, Pegasus used their fire mapping and heat-sensing tech to supply data to front-line workers. As expected, the support they provided was far beyond what traditional tools would have been able to accomplish—overall, Pegasus’ drone technology identified 137 more hotspots. This technology saved critical structures and Parkland County Emergency Management was able to proactively redirect resources appropriately. Pegasus aims to forge more partnerships like the one with Parkland to scale their support of wildfire fighting efforts across the province and Canada. 

 This technology has the potential to save lives, the environment, and urban centers from complete devastation. “We don’t have time for a slow rollout,” says Cole. “The idea is to be faster and smarter at catching fires and protecting people and cities. This is about saving lives.” 

 Pegasus Imagery in the media 

Cole Rosentreter, Pegasus Imagery, and their drone technology have been featured on Ryan Jespersen’s Real Talk podcast, as well as CBC’s Radio Active segments. Take a listen to hear more about Pegasus Imagery’s revolutionizing technology.  

Real Talk July 26, 2021 – Allan Inquiry farce; Toronto Homeless Camps; AI to Fight Wildfire; Baby Banff Bison (Segment at 1:09:33-1:36:00)