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Saab Global

Fighting Wildfires with Saab’s AI Platform

4 min read

Saab’s team has partnered with the California Air National Guard to use AI and machine learning to map wildfires in near real-time, providing first responders with the information they need to save lives, faster than ever before. Hear from Devaki Raj, Saab, Inc.’s Strategy Office Chief Digital and AI Officer, on how this technology has the power to make a significant difference in our emergency response capabilities.

When our communities are in immediate need, Saab’s team uses AI modeling to provide critical and life-saving information to first responders faster than ever. 

The equation is simple: providing the most up-to-date information during increasingly prevalent and widespread wildfires in the United States equals more lives saved.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the five largest wildfires in California history have happened in the last six years. As these natural disasters increase in severity, Saab is working with the California Air National Guard to assist first responders and get them the information they need to save lives, faster than ever before. 

Saab, Inc.’s strategy office uses an artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) computer vision platform to map wildfires in near real-time, solving a critical concern in previous efforts to fight California wildfires. 

In traditional emergency response efforts, analysts work against the clock to interpret aerial footage of fires, map the changing fire perimeters and pass that information on to first responders. But wildfires can spread more than 10 miles per hour, meaning analysts often work from outdated footage or unknowingly share obsolete data with first responders. This disconnect between manual analyses and rapid-fire perimeter shifts can put communities and first responders at significantly increased risk. 

“When it comes to emergency response, every minute can make a difference. With Saab’s AI model, we can achieve incredible time savings that translate into significant results. For example, with our model, we can identify hotspots much faster, like when a fire breaks away from the perimeter or if a major offshoot is more severe than anticipated,” said Devaki Raj, CDAI officer, strategy office, Saab, Inc. 

Saab’s AI model is trained on thousands of frames from wildfire videos, resulting in a system that can identify the edge of a fire with a high accuracy using infrared footage of a burning forest. Once the model obtains footage from flyover drones in real-time, it processes the data and its findings are reviewed by an expert. The final output of a fire’s exact location can then be shared with first responders in less than 30 minutes - a substantial time savings from the traditional tools’ 5 or 6 hours. 

“The more information we have, the better we can protect our community. Saab’s AI model creates maps that are quite accurate and have earned the trust of analysts and first responders. It’s a smart system, and it serves a critical purpose,” said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Baird of the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing.

The California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing. PHOTOGRAPH: CRYSTAL HOUSMAN/AIR NATIONAL GUARD

“AI models can save lives by speeding up our response times and helping teams operate safer, faster and more effectively,” said Taylor Maggos, deputy program manager, strategy office, Saab, Inc.

“The California wildfires are just one of the first major applications. We have a great team of experts working on the edge to create AI products that fill a need and provide significant value in existing systems across the company.”

Map of wildfire activity near Santa Clarita, California, from video collected by a drone in 2019. COURTESY OF AIR NATIONAL GUARD

With expanding domestic capabilities and complementary technological systems, from AI models to cutting-edge radar systems, Saab is carrying on its dual traditions of keeping people and society safe by building – and creating – Every Product Smarter.

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense visual information does not imply or constitute DOD endorsement.