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Monday, June 5, 2023

XPRIZE Launches Competition to End Destructive Wildfires

XPRIZE Wildfire will incentivize teams from around the world to innovate across a wide range of technologies in two complementary tracks designed to transform how fires are detected, managed, and fought.

XPRIZE, the world’s leader in designing and operating large-scale incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges, launched XPRIZE Wildfire, a 4-year global competition that will award $11 million prize funding to teams able to develop and demonstrate fully-autonomous capabilities to detect and extinguish wildfires.

Around the world, the severity of Extreme Wildfire Events (EWEs) is increasing, driving over 80% of fire-related damages globally and costing an approximate $350 billion in damages annually in the United States alone. EWEs spread at a faster rate and burn larger areas at higher intensities, wreak havoc on ecosystems, cause long-term global economic burdens, and often result in devastating injuries and loss of life. Despite these high environmental and economic costs, fire management technologies have not evolved significantly in decades and best practices have not changed in almost a century.

“We have been fighting wildfires the same way for decades – it’s not working, and the destruction is getting increasingly worse. We need a radical re-invention of how we detect and battle these blazes,” said Peter H. Diamandis, Executive Chairman of the Board, XPRIZE. “The convergence of exponential technologies such as AI, robotics, drones, and sensors offer us the opportunity to detect wildfires at inception, and put them out in minutes before they spread – that’s the mission of this XPRIZE.”

Recently, the United Nations, the White House and Congress have prioritized destructive wildfires as a major economic, environmental, and safety threat. XPRIZE Wildfire kicks off during Earth Week 2023 following a series of U.S Fire Administration (USFA) / FEMA press conferences focused on America’s wildfire problem, with a goal to discover new technologies that will improve detection and swift suppression of potentially destructive wildfires, ultimately putting an end to catastrophic wildfire events.

“In recent years, we’ve weathered some of the largest and most destructive wildfires in the history of our planet,” said Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, U.S. Fire Administrator, FEMA. “It’s crucial that our federal agencies collaborate with the private sector to spur technology innovation to better support communities and address wildfire more holistically and to provide the firefighters on the frontlines a fighting chance to make a difference.”

XPRIZE Wildfire will incentivize teams from around the world to innovate across a wide range of technologies in two complementary tracks designed to transform how fires are detected, managed, and fought.

  • In the Space-Based Wildfire Detection & Intelligence track, teams will have one minute to accurately detect all fires across a landscape larger than entire states or countries, and 10 minutes to precisely characterize and report data with the least false positives to fire managers on the ground.
  • In the Autonomous Wildfire Response track, teams will need to monitor at least 1,000 km2, and autonomously suppress a wildfire within 10 minutes of detection.
  • The $1M Lockheed Martin Accurate Detection Intelligence Bonus Prize will be awarded for innovations in accurate and precise detection of wildfires.

“The reality is that we are unprepared to effectively combat the growing number of wildfires and their severity around the globe,” said Peter Houlihan, EVP, Biodiversity and Conservation, XPRIZE. “As the effects of climate change worsen, more and more communities will be at risk as dangerous wildfires increase in frequency and devastation. Thanks to the generous contributions of our sponsors and partners, XPRIZE Wildfire will accelerate innovation in detection and rapid response that will transform wildfire management practices and save lives.”

“In recent years, we have seen a dramatic increase in destructive wildfires across the Western United States. In California, 18 of the 20 biggest fires in the state’s history have happened since 2000,” said California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis. “By investing in state-of-the-art firefighting technology, California will be more prepared than ever to face wildfires and protect our high-risk communities.”

“With over 30 years of experience in fire management, I’ve seen firsthand how devastating wildfires can be to communities, natural and cultural resources, and to the brave individuals who combat them,” said Shawna Legarza, PsyD, former director of fire and aviation, USDA Forest Service. “Wildfires aren’t going anywhere. To better protect our land and ourselves, we need to change the way we detect and manage wildfires now.”

XPRIZE Wildfire is offered in partnership with Co-Title Sponsors Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Presenting Sponsor Minderoo Foundation, Bonus Prize Sponsor Lockheed Martin, Supporting Sponsor Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and benefactors Nichola Eliovits and Michael Antonov.

Global collaborators from the U.S. Fire Administration / FEMA, the Aspen Institute, NASA, New South Wales Rural Fire Service, the Australian Space Agency, USDA Forest Service, CAL FIRE, the XPRIZE Biodiversity and Conservation Brain Trust, and XPRIZE Wildfire Advisory Board were instrumental in the launch of XPRIZE Wildfire and will have continued involvement over the course of the competition.

Palmer Luckey, Founder of Oculus VR and Anduril Industries, also announced today his intent to compete in XPRIZE Wildfire, making him the first to register. “In success, this XPRIZE will deliver massive benefits to humanity by saving lives and eliminating many billions of dollars in economic devastation,” said Luckey. “I am excited to compete and expect dozens of innovative companies to join me in applying their talent towards solving this grand challenge of eliminating wildfires.”

Register a team to compete, learn more and get involved at xprize.org/wildfire

Read more at XPRIZE

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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