An Alma company that has won over Australia and will be tested in Quebec next summer has developed a revolutionary probe designed to limit damage in the event of a natural disaster.
“If we could have used this technology in the summer we just had, it would have helped us a lot,” says Olivier Lundqvist, director of information technologies at SOPFEU. The organization promises to conduct tests next summer.
What do Lux Aerobot and its founders Katrina Albert and Vincent Lachance offer?
A helium-inflated weather balloon equipped with cameras that position themselves in the stratosphere by continuously pointing their lens at vast Earth surfaces to be monitored.
Preparation for the launch of a prototype in Alma, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, in January 2022. Photo courtesy of LUX Aerobot
The “gondola” can therefore capture and transmit images of developing situations.
The artificial intelligence analysis system was successfully tested in Australia during the 2019 fires.
“Apart from us, no other Canadian company is currently active in this space,” says Katrina Albert, co-founder of Lux Aerobot.
The low operating costs and the fact that the probes can concentrate their observations in one place for a longer period of time are two of the advantages of this innovation.
Better than a satellite
While satellites provide a good level of reliability when observing large spaces, they are not reliable when monitoring changing situations, such as wildfires.
“In Quebec we can only count on one or two satellites per day. In order to track the development of a fire, we need to have information over several days. That is exactly the potential of the Lux Aerobot balloons,” says Lundqvist.
SOPFEU can count on the images taken by planes and helicopters, but the bill is very high.
Other applications are planned for this CO2-neutral technology, such as monitoring the Arctic or coastal management.
Katrina and co-founder Vincent Lachance appear on Canadian show Dragons’ Den on Thursday. Photo courtesy of LUX Aerobot
The co-founders of the Quebec startup presented the technological innovation, which currently employs 15 people in Alma, in Lac-Saint-Jean and in Montreal, to investors of the reality TV show “Dragons’ Den” (Dans l’oeil du Dragon) on Thursday evening .
“Honestly, we did not expect such a reaction from Robert Herjavec, who decided to invest $500,000 in the adventure,” says Ms. Albert.
No Chinese balloons
Probes in the North American sky made headlines last February. These balloons, which came from China and claimed to be meteorological probes, triggered a diplomatic incident between the United States, Canada and China. They were shot down by fighter planes.
“That probably won’t happen to us because we follow the trajectory of our balloons,” Ms. Albert says with a smile.
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