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Edmonton-area drone firm gives crews fighting wildfires major boost

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An Edmonton-area company is helping change the way crews fight wildfires in Alberta and beyond.

Pegasus Imagery uses custom-built drones to fly over fires and collect valuable data.

While the increasing use of drones for various tasks has captured people's imaginations recently, Pegasus's founder and chief executive officer Cole Rosentreter said he thinks of his company as a data provider.

"People focus on the tools, but that really is what the drone is," Rosentreter told CTV News Edmonton on Tuesday. "We're building valuable technology that allows them to fly beyond the line of sight and unlock a huge, new opportunity. The most important part is our customers are end users who care about the data."

Pegasus's partners include big players, from the federal and provincial government to a global telecommunications firm and a major railway.

"We've been able to pull together a bunch of different groups that are all interested in figuring out this (wildfire data) problem together," said Rosentreter, who founded Pegasus in 2018 after leaving the army.

The idea to start the firm located at Villeneuve Airport northwest of Edmonton came to him while he served for the military in Europe.

"We don't have an ability to fight fires at night or monitor fires overnight, other than satellites," Rosentreter said. "People aren't getting information fast enough to make high-quality decisions at the speed of how these fires are now growing and getting rapidly out of control."

Creating thermal maps overnight with Pegasus's drones help crews track fires and save time fighting them during daylight hours.

"They're not spending one, two or three hours trying to get better situational awareness on what changed (over) night," Rosentreter said. "We can give them a near live map and all the context they need (in the morning)."

The world is taking notice of the Alberta start-up: the services offered by Pegasus, which started as a one-man firm with Rosentreter and today employs 25 people, have been recognized by the likes of NASA, Boeing and Buckingham Palace.

In May, Rosentreter accepted an invitation to London, England, to receive the 2023 Prince's Trust global sustainability award from King Charles – an experience he says is more than just a recognition.

"It's more of a responsibility," Rosentreter said. "Because it is our responsibility to develop technology that can solve seemingly impossible challenges." 

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