Austin Energy to Launch Early Wildfire Detection Program Powered by AI
October 5, 2023
Today, Austin City Council approved a powerful new tool to aid Austin Energy in wildfire detection and response as climate change fuels hotter, drier summers in Texas. The city’s public electric utility will implement Pano AI technology to provide Austin Energy crews and emergency first responders with up-to-the-minute information to quickly respond to wildfire threats while protecting lives, property and the environment.
The Pano AI system combines advanced hardware, artificial intelligence and other software to form a network of ultra-high-definition, 360-degree cameras atop high vantage points that give first responders an added edge in wildfire detection. The system’s AI technology will continuously scan the Austin Energy service area for any smoke related to a potential wildfire. Once a fire is spotted, a Pano AI monitoring center verifies the detection, the camera triangulates the exact location of the fire and then Pano AI alerts the 911 call center to activate the closest fire department. The camera’s live stream video feed will also be accessible by the departments to have real-time situational awareness.
“This is an important step for the safety of our community and the reliability of our electric system,” said Chris Vetromile, Austin Energy wildfire program manager. “Climate change is fueling extreme temperatures and this program will save crucial time in responding to wildfires, helping safeguard our community and enhancing our ability to provide uninterrupted electrical service.”
Austin Energy’s service area extends past city limits into several surrounding counties, so the camera coverage will extend into those counties, reaching the entire service territory. Once installed, the Pano AI system will survey nearly all of Travis County, as well as parts of Hays, Bastrop, Williamson and Burnet counties. The early alert system will aid Austin Energy in the determination of a proactive power shut off if needed during a wildfire.Background
Austin Energy became aware of AI camera technology through working with the Texas Public Power Corridor Committee, a group of public utilities along I-35 including Austin Energy, the Lower Colorado River Authority, New Braunfels Utilities, and CPS Energy (San Antonio). Austin Energy budgeted $500,000 annually for a five-year contract for the new technology.Austin Fire Collaboration
Austin Energy has worked with Austin Fire (AFD) from the start of this project. AFD assisted with the technical aspects of the system, including potential camera positioning for maximum coverage. Austin Energy also worked with the surrounding County Emergency Service District (ESD) Fire Departments, as the final product will also benefit their districts.