Self-Driving Car Tech May Help Prevent Wildfires

California’s record summer for wildfires makes it imperative that the state does something to control the incidence of these preventable natural disasters. From reports, most of the fires start when downed power lines come into contact with flammable material. Quanergy, the company that makes Light-Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors for self-driving cars, believes it has the solution. By incorporating their LiDAR tech into autonomous drones for line-inspection, downed lines can be detected and repaired before they have the time to cause wildfires.

LiDAR for 3D Mapping

At its core, LiDAR is a 3D mapping tool that has been used in self-driving cars to help them “see” their surroundings. Using this technology can allow drones to trace power lines and image locations remotely, so that the power company can spot where faults exist on the line. Quick repairs will stop wildfires before they start and ensure a reliable supply of power to residents that may have been affected for an extended period. Estimates from Quanergy state that a drone can cover as much as forty acres in fifteen to twenty minutes – far faster than human inspectors could.

Alternative Measures Call for Rolling Outages

The drone control methodology has a lot to recommend it. Currently, the only other alternative would be to institute blackouts across large areas as a safety precaution. Using drones to map and detect fallen lines would allow for a more efficient response with less inconvenience to customers living in those areas.

Not a New Methodology for Drone Usage

Areas of Australia and China have already started using drones with LiDAR for mapping. In other countries, the tech has been used for clearing railway lines. Quanergy has stated that it intends to begin pitching US power companies as partners shortly. Although no companies are currently signed on to work with Quanergy, California’s supplier PG&E has stated that they have an interest in the innovation.