Firefighting Startup Raises $20M as Wildfire Season Approaches

BurnBot’s remote-controlled vehicles ‘eat’ dry vegetation and perform controlled burns, clearing areas of fire risks

Scarlett Evans, Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

April 3, 2024

2 Min Read
BurnBot's RX remote-controlled vehicle
BurnBot's RX remote-controlled vehicleBurnBot

Rising global temperatures and increasing instances of drought have made recent wildfires some of the worst in history. 

As this year’s wildfire season approaches, San Francisco-based startup BurnBot is working to roll out its vegetation-eating fire-management vehicles to help mitigate disasters.

The company raised $20 million in its latest funding round to expand and develop its remotely-operated vehicle, the RX BurnBot, designed to “eat” the dry vegetation that is often the fodder for forest fires, as well as perform controlled burns to clear areas of hazards. 

The round was led by ReGen Ventures, with participation from Toyota Ventures, AmFam Ventures, Convective Capital, Blue Forest Asset Management, Skip Capital, Overture Ventures, Lowercarbon Capital and Pathbreaker Ventures.

Using the funds, BurnBot said it can also scale up initiatives to restore forestland and perform controlled burns, in a widespread effort to reduce the instances of wildfire.

As RX moves across a specific area, it shoots fire onto the ground before immediately spraying water to cool down the land and prevent escaped fires. 

"Our technology…enabl[es] small crews to treat areas 10X faster and more efficiently,” said Waleed Haddad, BurnBot’s CTO. “We know that fire is an effective and ecological way to manage fuel buildup and we designed the RX to operate with minimal smoke and escape risk, so it's safe for use year-round, even near communities and critical infrastructure.”

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RX was successfully deployed by the Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) last August to perform a controlled burn.

"With the RX, we were able to quickly establish unit segments and boundaries, simplifying the most labor-intensive part of our operations and freeing up personnel to complete a safe, broadcast burn on time,” said Jared Childress, burn boss for the Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association. “We literally could not have done this treatment without BurnBot." 

BurnBot’s system of mechanized vegetation management technology has been used in several projects across California and Oregon. 

This included helping the Pacific Gas and Electric Company conduct a controlled burn under high-voltage transmission lines and clearing out 60 acres of hazardous brush around evacuation routes for the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

The company has said that it also hopes to expand operations nationally and help fight fires across states using the new investment.

"This investment in BurnBot is a catalyst that will deploy new technologies to boost workforce capacity and significantly advance California's aim to treat 1 million acres annually,” said Chris Anthony, former Chief Deputy Director of CAL FIRE. “[It will also advance] the US Forest Service's goal of treating 50 million acres over the coming decade, meaningfully reducing wildfire risk while protecting lives, communities and critical watersheds." 

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

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