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How self-driving car tech could help drones monitor power lines to prevent wildfires

2019 was a frightening year for wildfires in California. But drones with tech from self-driving cars may be the saving grace California needs to spot the fires before they get out of control.

"Last year, California had its most destructive and deadliest wildfire year on record. Increasingly dry, warm, and windy weather conditions wrought by climate change are a big reason why. But the immediate cause is often power lines: Downed lines that come into contact with nearby trees can create a spark that spreads into bigger fires. So far, the (very inconvenient) solution has been to just shut off electricity entirely during days with high wind. But a Bay Area company says they have another answer, and it uses the same technology that lets self-driving cars “see” their surroundings.

"Quanergy is most well known for building the LiDAR sensors that help power autonomous vehicles. LIDAR works like radar, but with light waves instead of radio waves. These waves bounce back from an object (like a person or another car) to the sensor, determining how far away that object is. That information then creates a 3D map of an autonomous car’s environment. Since this technology is, at its core, a 3D mapping tool, Quanergy says it can also be used to map power lines, potentially helping utility companies inspect their miles and miles of lines for encroaching trees, or finding downed wires before they start a blaze."

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