MyRadar expands wildfire detection with NOAA funding

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SAN FRANCISCO – MyRadar is looking beyond weather forecasts to wildfire detection and mitigation with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We are expanding beyond weather as a primary use case and radar as a primary sensing modality to become a platform for awareness and environmental intelligence across a variety of hazards,” Sarvesh Garimella, MyRadar’s chief scientist and chief operating officer, told SpaceNews.

In late October, MyRadar announced a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from NOAA to test the feasibility of wildfire detection and mitigation technology. With NOAA funding, MyRadar is training artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms with data from the urban-wildland interface, where buildings are adjacent to wilderness areas.

“We’ve been doing flights with drones and making laboratory measurements with the sensors to get the ground-truth representation of what we are looking for,” Garimella said. “We will then compare it to existing satellite datasets. This stretch will culminate in the Pathfinder project, where we have our sensors in orbit collecting data that will help us understand operational constraints and allow us to collect additional training data.”

MyRadar launched three prototype satellites in May on a Rocket Lab Electron for the Orlando, Florida-based company’s Hyperspectral Orbital Remote Imaging Spectrometer (HORIS) constellation.

Once the company has 15 satellites in orbit, “we can start being effective,” said MyRadar CEO Andy Green. “The immediate goal is for a 150-satellite constellation. That’s where we want to go for real-time alerting.”

MyRadar plans to begin launching HORIS Pathfinder satellites in mid-2023. The single cubesats will be packed with sensors and AI to sift through weather data and detect hazards like smoke, aerosols and fire hotspots, Green said.

In addition to alerting people of ongoing wildfires, MyRadar intends to help municipalities identify areas at risk of ignition.

“We’ll have a good view from orbit of the areas that are most likely prone to risk,” Green said.

MyRadar’s fire fire detection app will “improve significantly on the available coverage from a temporal and spatial standpoint, “filling in the gaps” in NASA and NOAA imagery to “deliver billions of alerts per year to our users,” Garimella said.

A good user experience, Garimella added, will be critical for the success of the wildfire-detection app. Users will need to quickly digest information and make decisions.

MyRadar, a free weather and environmental app offered by Acme AtronOmatic, has more than 13 million monthly users.