Thomas Grübler are driven by images of the kind seen in America at the end of last year.

In the US state of Colorado, fires ripped through entire regions at lightning speed, destroying around 1,000 buildings and important infrastructure.

Around 35,000 people had to leave their homes.

The Munich start-up Ororatech, whose co-founder and boss is Grübler, wants to help identify and report such devastating fires earlier.

"Anyone who is informed in good time that a fire is becoming a danger can get themselves and their belongings to safety," says Grübler.

Ilka Kopplin

Business correspondent in Munich.

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For this purpose, the team of Grübler and the three other founders Björn Stoffers, Florian Mauracher and Rupert Amann founded Ororatech in 2018 from the Technical University of Munich.

The start-up has developed an artificial intelligence-based early warning system that evaluates images from space.

So far, the inventors have used images from the European earth observation program Copernicus, for example.

However, with the existing systems, there is an observation gap between early afternoon and evening.

This is to include a fleet of its own satellites.

To this end, the developers are now sending their first mini-satellite, which is only the size of a shoe box, into orbit.

It will orbit the earth at an altitude of around 525 kilometers and capture high-resolution thermal images of the surface.

The satellite itself comes from the Luxembourg partner company Spire.

Ororatech has in turn integrated its technology, which has so far only been tried out in drones.

Now she has to prove herself in space.

Not profitable yet

The highlight of the system: in addition to a thermal imaging camera, the mini-satellite also has a module that directly analyzes the collected data. Various data on weather and vegetation are also included. "With our technology, we record both medium-wave and thermal infrared radiation from a great distance," says Grübler. The system already recognizes the temperature signatures characteristic of fires in space and then sends the data to Earth. "Our AI-based software ensures that forest fires that have been clearly identified are reported immediately," says Grübler. According to this, the technology reduces the time between fire detection and the alarm being sent from two hours to just a few minutes.

Ororatech now has around 60 employees and various venture capitalists such as Apex, Ananda Impact or Findus Ventures. After all, the potential is great: Ororatech already has various customers for its early warning software, including particularly fire-prone regions such as Tasmania or New South Wales in Australia, and commercial forest operations in South America also use the system, says Grübler. In addition to fire brigades, it is also interesting for insurance companies and agricultural companies. In this way, the evaporation of water in the soil can be measured in perspective.

Ororatech is not yet profitable, the money goes into further development, says Grübler.

The first mini-satellite, which is to be launched by Elon Musk this Thursday afternoon with the Falcon 9 launch vehicle from the American space company SpaceX, is to be followed by others by the end of the year.

Next year, a fleet of eight satellites will be launched using the experience gained from the first prototypes.

In the long term, a whole swarm should deliver a large number of data points.