A Canadian nonprofit combined radar technology and artificial intelligence (A.I.) to detect polar bears, helping the Arctic communities of Churchill, Manitoba, to maintain a safe distance from the powerful predator that ventures on land due to climate change.
“By incorporating this A.I., we’re truly teaching this radar to learn what a polar bear is,” says Alysa McCall, a staff scientist with Polar Bears International (PBI). “It’s learning to take away the humans and dogs, and quads and caribou, and only alert us when there’s a polar bear. With more warning, you have more options, and that’s safer for the bears and the people.”
The project came from the desire to find new ways to prevent human-polar bear conflict. PBI joined forces with SpotterRF, a company that makes military radar devices, to send out early warnings whenever a polar bear is heading toward towns. For the last four years, the radar – or “bear-dar” – helped positively identify polar bears. Last fall, a total of 28 polar bears were positively identified. “We would just like to help manage those human interactions and make sure there are more nonlethal options.”