Using Solar-Powered AI Sensors to Detect Wildfires Earlier

Dryad Networks is making solar-powered sensors that can recognize wildfires early. The setup uses machine learning and alerts first responders.

Jesse Orrall Senior Video Producer
Jesse Orrall (he/him/his) is a Senior Video Producer for CNET. He covers future tech, sustainability and the social impact of technology. He is co-host of CNET's "What The Future" series and Executive Producer of "Experts React." Aside from making videos, he's a certified SCUBA diver with a passion for music, films, history and ecology.
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Watch this: Electronic Nose 'Smells' Wildfires for Ultra-Early Detection

If a tree catches fire in the forest and nobody's around to notice, how can first responders prevent things from getting out of control?

That's where Dryad Networks' AI-powered wildfire detection system comes in. It uses solar-powered sensors to detect gas changes in the air. When the sensors are spread throughout a forest, the system can detect fires more quickly, even during the initial smoldering phase.


Dryad Networks' solar-powered gas sensors are placed in trees, approximately three meters off the ground. They can monitor an area about the size of a football field.

Dryad Networks

Once the system picks up on a blaze, the company uses its own communication network to send a signal to firefighters with the location of the threat.

Dryad taps machine learning to help reduce the risk of false positives, using an AI system trained on data acquired by controlled burning of various forest materials.


Burning forest materials to train Dryad Networks' AI wildfire detection system.

Dryad Networks

Each sensor can monitor an area about the size of a football field, so to be effective, the company has to make and deploy a lot of them.

The sensors are made to be waterproof and store their energy in capacitors, rather than lithium-ion batteries that have some risk of catching fire themselves.

The sensors have already been deployed in parts of Europe and North America, and Dryad is currently focused on scaling up its operations.

To see this solar-powered fire-sensing network in action, check out the video in this article.