Wildfire on a mountain

Employing AI to Detect and Track Wildfires Around the World

This case study is based on an article published by Global Citizen found here.



Descartes Labs, an American geospatial intelligence company, and MapBiomas, an environmental collaborative network in Brazil


The Challenge:

Wildfires are an increasingly common occurrence for many parts of the world, with often devastating impacts on air quality, water supply and other vital resources. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), wildfires affected 6.2 million people between 1998 and 2017 alone, including 2,400 deaths worldwide.


The Opportunity:

Knowing the dangers associated with wildfires for communities and ecosystems, Descartes Labs developed a proprietary system powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to help detect and track wildfires as soon as they’ve ignited.


The company’s AI program reviews satellite images for the presence of smoke or a change in infrared data to alert local officials of potential danger within minutes. This early detection is crucial in mitigating the spread and impact of wildfires, particularly in uninhabited or rural areas. While a pilot or motorist might report smoke in a general area, Descartes Labs’ solution helps narrow down exactly where the fire is located.


Similarly, MapBiomas is using comparable technology to monitor the Brazilian part of the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland. MapBiomas’ platform processed more than 150,000 images to reveal the loss of nearly three-quarters of natural surface water across the Brazilian Pantanal, highlighting the impact of wildfires and changes in land use. According to Cássio Bernardino, World Wildlife Fund-Brazil’s MapBiomas water project lead, “AI technology provided us with a shockingly clear picture.”


Supporting these significant advancements in monitoring and detection is a strong intellectual property (IP) infrastructure. By protecting IP rights, organizations like Descartes Labs and MapBiomas are empowered to invest in and collaborate on new innovations and spur solutions for today’s most pressing issues.


Protecting the planet from wildfires and water loss is increasingly essential for communities around the world. Fortunately, solutions developed with the incentives and protections of robust IP rights are helping provide ways to protect natural resources as well as the people and ecosystems that rely on them.

“Solutions developed with the incentives and protections of robust IP rights are helping provide ways to protect natural resources.”

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