Innovation That Matters

| Photo source BurnBot

Wildfire prevention: an innovative robotic system


The robot treats land with controlled burning to limit the spread of future fires

Spotted: Due to climate change and global warming, the number of extreme wildfires is expected to increase by up to 14 per cent by 2030, and up to 50 per cent by the end of the century. This means increased destruction of healthy soils and vegetation, animal habitats, and human infrastructure. One company that hopes to limit the impact of wildfires is US-based BurnBot, with its scalable prescribed fire system.

Prescribed fire, or controlled burning, is an important way to maintain the health of forests. Not only does it help to clear invasive plants and reduce competition for native species, but it also plays a big role in making sure wildfires don’t spread uncontrollably. It does this by safely burning away dead leaves, twigs, and other debris that could otherwise act as fuel to wildfires and allow them to spread more widely and quickly.

The robotic system, called RX, treats only the land that’s directly beneath it, safely burning the debris in an enclosed chamber and cooling the land as it moves to create a kind of fire break. To eliminate the chance of fire escaping, RX also uses air suction to contain any flames and embers. The technology runs on clean fuel and therefore produces much less smoke than similar methods, which release pollutants from burning petrol.

BurnBot recently completed a series A funding round, where it raised $20 million (around €18.7 million) and intends to use the money to scale its workforce and continue contributing to California’s goal of treating 1 million acres annually with controlled burns.

Springwise has spotted other technologies being used to tackle wildfires, including satellites that spot high-risk areas and an autonomous aircraft that keeps fires under control.

Written By: Lauryn Berry and Matilda Cox




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