Greece and Israel are developing AI-based capabilities for early wildfire detection

Alfonso Maruccia

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A hot potato: AI technology can offer society much more than just unreliable text generation services and untrustworthy chatbots. European countries and Israel are placing their bets on AI's algorithmic capabilities as a potential solution to more effectively manage and combat the uncontrolled spread of wildfires during the summer.

Greece and Israel are collaborating on a joint AI-based initiative for the early detection of wildfires. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently held discussions with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides, confirming that the three countries will unite their efforts to address this common issue.

Wildfires have become an increasingly urgent problem in the Mediterranean region, and Greece has been particularly hard-hit this summer, resulting in the loss of entire forests and 20 lives. AI algorithms have the potential to enhance detection capabilities for authorities and firefighters, ultimately saving lives and preserving forests during the hottest months of the year.

Mitsotakis said Greece could serve as a testing ground for Israel's AI wildfire detection technology. The two countries are actively discussing specific AI solutions for practical deployment. Meanwhile, Netanyahu confirmed that the three leaders are intensifying their collaborative efforts to combat wildfires. Over the past two months, Israel and Cyprus have dispatched firefighting aircraft and crews to Greece to assist in addressing Europe's deadliest wildfire season to date.

Mitsotakis also advocated for Israel's participation in Europe's collective effort against wildfires known as SAFERS, or Structured Approaches for Forest Fire Emergencies in Resilient Societies. SAFERS is an integrated platform that incorporates a "forest fire decision support system." Various data sources, including satellite imagery, fire sensors, weather forecasts, and crowdsourced data, feed into AI algorithms. In return, these AI systems provide valuable information to local authorities, enhancing preparedness for wildfire risks.

The SAFERS project is expected to continue until 2024, with a total budget of €3.25 million. The European countries currently involved in this project include Italy, Greece, Finland, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Spain. The ultimate aim of the project is to develop an effective AI-based wildfire control system that could potentially be expanded to cover the entire European territory.

In addition to combating wildfires and enhancing the coordination of firefighting efforts, Greece, Israel, and Cyprus have engaged in discussions regarding the potential utilization of recently discovered natural gas reserves beneath the Mediterranean Sea. Netanyahu mentioned that a joint decision is anticipated within the next three to six months. Energy remains a central topic in the ongoing series of conversations among these three Mediterranean leaders.

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