Rogers to Use SpaceX’s Swarm LEO Satellites for Wildfire Detection

File photo: How we monitor wildfires is about to change. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

Rogers Communications announced today that it was going to use ground sensors in combination with small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) for wildfire detection.

The move is part of Rogers effort to “to help combat climate change-related events in communities across the country.” And it’s a smart move in that it gets them positive public relations and it’s a hedge to protect its own infrastructure investments in places that are susceptible to wildfires.

Rogers will use Internet of Things (IoT) technology that was created in Canada by Swarm Technologies. The company was started by Canadian Sara Spangelo in 2016 and was acquired by SpaceX in 2021.

Swarm Technologies builds both ground sensors and the picosatellites that communicate with the sensors. The Swarm satellites are 1/4 the size of a CubeSat and weigh 400 grams, putting into the picosatellite class. Swarm currently has 168 active picosatellites in LEO.

A Swarm Technologies satellite (11 x 11 x 2.8 cm). Image credit: Swarm Technologies.
A Swarm Technologies satellite (11 x 11 x 2.8 cm). Image credit: Swarm Technologies.

Rogers will initially use the system on wireless towers in remote areas of British Columbia including near Fort St. James, Smithers and Chetwynd. 

The system will use Pano AI cameras that can detect smoke up to 20 kilometres. If a camera detects smoke it will use the low-bandwidth Swarm sensor to send notification to one of the Swarm picosatellites which will then relay the information to officials.

Tony Staffieri, President and CEO, Rogers said “Climate change is a global issue that requires urgent action. Communities across the country are facing the effects of unprecedented wildfires. We are proud to put our national network and technology partnerships to work to better detect fires and support Canadian first responders.”

According to Rogers “The new technology builds on ongoing 5G research by Rogers, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) to monitor key wildfire indicators. Now, real-time information from the satellite-connected sensors and tower cameras will be shared with BCWS and UBC to enable better detection and help first responders manage these devastating events.”

Aaron Pawlick, Manager, Strategic Initiatives and Innovation, BC Wildfire Service added “Wildfires are a growing concern across our province and we are always looking for better ways to predict and detect them. We are always interested in new ideas, technology, and innovations to inform our work. We are pleased to receive data and information from this project and participate with Rogers, UBC and Pano in trialing these innovative technologies.”

As part of this announcement Rogers said it was donating satellite phones to the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association to support first responders.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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