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Pano has a burning desire to apply AI smarts to wildfire detection

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Cameras on a mast
Image Credits: Pano AI (opens in a new window)

As the weather gets hot and dry, things get a little bit tense these days. While it’s been possible for humans to be on the lookout for fires (there are even organizations that make it easy to volunteer to do so), one of the big challenge is that technology often comes up short; by the time tech detects a fire, it’s already well on its way to being out of control. Pano is combining some clever cameras with AI technology to give fire-containment crews a fighting chance to keep things as un-on-fire as they can be.

Pano AI offers a fully managed solution that combines advanced hardware, artificial intelligence and easy-to-use cloud-based software to provide fire agencies with actionable intelligence and up-to-the minute situational awareness. This helps first responders get to the scene faster and more safely — with the right equipment, latest information and enhanced coordination — so they can stop a new ignition in its tracks.

“The climate crisis is happening now, and humanity needs to start adapting today. At Pano AI, we’re working to pioneer the field of climate change adaptation so that we can help society cope with the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters. We’re the first company to offer a fully managed solution that delivers active wildfire detection using artificial intelligence,” said Sonia Kastner, CEO and founder of Pano AI, in an interview with TechCrunch. “This investment will accelerate the geographical breadth of Pano’s AI solution, enabling us to safeguard more communities from these climate-caused emergencies. We are grateful for the support of our investors at this critical time, as we face increasingly dangerous fire seasons around the world.”

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Kastner moved to California in 2007, where she worked in the solar industry and later helped build a number of companies, including spending time at Nest, developing the early AI-powered Nest Cam.

“Our Series A lead is Initialized Capital, known for backing transformative companies that are often the pioneers in their industries. Kim-Mai Cutler, partner at Initialized Capital, will also be joining our board of directors. Initialized has been phenomenal to work with because they share our values and deeply understand Pano AI’s mission,” said Kastner. Her company raised $20 million at a $90 million post-money valuation. Before the current round, it raised $8 million in convertible notes. “This investment demonstrates that flagship investors understand the climate crisis and believe that AI and technology-driven solutions will play a critical role in helping society to adapt.”

Pano CEO Sonia Kastner holds one of the Pano Station Cameras. Image Credits: Pano

The company told me its mission is to accelerate global resilience to the increasing frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters.

“Over the next decade, I envision our disaster mitigation solutions helping to tackle the climate crisis by rolling back the catastrophic wildfire trend and providing intelligence to aggressively respond to other types of disasters,” said Kastner. “We’re proud of the progress over the last two years; we’re now monitoring 4.5 million acres and had over 1,000 detections this year. However, many important policymakers and decision-makers still do not understand that the technology to help mitigate wildfires exists today — it is ready for deployment without additional R&D.”

In the two years since its founding, Pano AI has been deployed with utility companies, governments, fire authorities, forestry companies and other private landowners. Pano AI operates in five U.S. states (California, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho and Montana) and two states in Australia (New South Wales and Queensland).

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