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Startup AiDash raises $50 million for tech using AI, satellites to spot wildfire risk

Handout photo of an aerial photo of the devastation left behind from the North Bay wildfires north of San Francisco

By Peter Henderson

(Reuters) - A California startup using artificial intelligence (AI) and satellites to spot fire and weather risks on power lines, AiDash, reported on Tuesday it had raised $50 million in new funding, reflecting Silicon Valley efforts to create products that help energy companies adapt to climate change.

Power utilities are under pressure to cut risks of forest fires and storm-based outages after massive fires have been sparked by power lines and weather events brought down lines. At the same time, loads on the grid are likely to rise as electricity displaces fossil fuel in applications such as electric vehicles and home heat pumps.

Hundreds of startups and small companies offer services and technology aimed at improving forest management, forest-fire spotting and response and other wildfire and forest-fire services, data from researcher PitchBook shows.

AiDash uses AI to search satellite images for problems and changes along power utility electric transmission lines, such as where vegetation has grown and whether trees are encroaching on lines.

The technology is also being used to help create surveys for companies facing new biodiversity reporting regulations, such as in the United Kingdom. The new funding will be used in part to open a European headquarters.

National Grid, an AiDash customer and investor which owns networks in the UK and United States, said it had seen measurable improvements in cutting the number and duration of outages since using the system to identify maintenance priorities on its Massachusetts grid.

"We have to be more dynamic in allocating our resources," as conditions change, AiDash Chief Executive Abhishek Singh said in an interview.

Lightrock led the investment round which included National Grid's National Grid Partners, Schneider Electric-backed SE Ventures, Edison International, Shell Ventures and others.

(Reporting by Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Editing by Matthew Lewis)