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Rescheduled: These are the can't-miss events to attend each day during Houston Climate Week

The city is hosting a series of virtual events focusing on climate issues Houston is facing. Here's what streams you cannot miss. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note — This story has been updated and republished to reflect the new dates and details of Houston Climate Week.

The city of Houston is kicking off its rescheduled Houston Climate Week after the original week was postponed by threats of Hurricane Laura. The week-long virtual program supports Mayor Sylvester Turner's Climate Action Plan, which launched in April in response to Hurricane Harvey and other recent major climate events.

"We recognized how we just couldn't continue to do things as we had done them in the past — Harvey was a game changer," Turner says at the opening conversation of Houston Climate Week. "It set us up for enacting the city's first Climate Action Plan."

Every day between Monday, September 14, to Friday, September 18, the city will host two to three virtual events. For the full schedule, click here. Below are the can't-miss events on the agenda.

Monday, September 14 — CLIMATE CHANGE: What does the future hold for Houston?

Katharine Hayhoe, climate specialist at Texas Tech University, will discuss future climate patterns and findings from her Houston Climate Impact Assessment.

The conversation begins at 1 pm on Monday, September 14, and those who register for the event can join online.

Tuesday, September 15 — ENERGY TRANSITION: Making Houston a Global Leader in Energy Innovation

A panel of experts have been tasked with discussing innovation in the energy industry. Joining the conversation is Kelsey Hultberg of Sunnova Energy, Juliana Garaizar of Greentown Labs Houston, Jose Beceiro of Global Energy 2.0, and Carolyn Seto of IHS Markit.

The conversation begins at 11 am on Tuesday, September 15, and those who register for the event can join online.

Wednesday, September 16 — TRANSPORTATION: Taking the Car Out of Carbon Emissions

Nearly half of Houston's greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation and 96 percent of commuters drive alone. Kimberly Williams, David Fields, Jonathan Brooks, and Kurt Barrow will explore pathways to a greener, safer, and more equitable mobility future for Houstonians.

The conversation begins at 11 am on Wednesday, September 16, and those who register for the event can join online.

Thursday, September 17 — RESILIENCE: 2020: The COVID, Climate, & Equity Connection

Whether it is climate change or COVID-19, a city's primary responsibility is to protect our most vulnerable. For Houston, that means fighting a global pandemic in the middle of a heat wave and hurricane season. This year has reinforced the connection between climate and community health. Community recovery and resilience leaders will discuss the impact COVID-19 and climate change have on Houston's most vulnerable populations and how to build more sustainable, resilient, and complete communities.

The conversation begins at 1 pm on Thursday, September 17, and those who register for the event can join online.

Friday, September 18 — CLOSING CONVERSATION: Partnerships and Pathways to Decarbonize Cities

Round out the week of programing with a final discussion with Mayor Turner, who will be joined by David Lawler of BP America, and Daniel Yergin of IHS Markit. They will be discussing the importance of partnerships in Houston's commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050.

The conversation begins at 1 pm on Friday, September 18, and those who register for the event can join online.

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Building Houston

 
 

Ty Audronis founded Tempest Droneworx to put drone data to work. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

Ty Audronis quite literally grew up in Paradise. But the Northern California town was destroyed by wildfire in 2018, including Audronis’ childhood home.

“That’s why it’s called the Campfire Region,” says the founder, who explains that the flames were started by a spark off a 97-year-old transmission line.

But Audronis, who has literally written the book on designing purpose-built drones — actually, more than one — wasn’t going to sit back and let it happen again. Currently, wildfire prevention is limited to the “medieval technology” of using towers miles apart to check for smoke signals.

“By the time you see smoke signals, you’ve already got a big problem,” Audronis says.

His idea? To replace that system with real-time, three-dimensional, multi-spectral mapping, which exactly where his company, Tempest Droneworx, comes in.

When asked how he connected with co-founder Dana Abramowitz, Audronis admits that it was Match.com — the pair not only share duties at Tempest, they are engaged to be married. It was a 2021 pre-SXSW brainstorming session at their home that inspired the pair to start Tempest.

When Audronis mentioned his vision of drone battalions, where each is doing a specialized task, Abramowitz, a serial entrepreneur and founder who prefers to leave the spotlight to her partner, told him that he shouldn’t give the idea away at a conference, they should start a company. After all, Audronis is a pioneer in the drone industry.

“Since 1997, I’ve been building multicopters,” he says.

Besides publishing industry-standard tomes, he took his expertise to the film business. But despite its name, Tempest is a software company and does not make drones.

That software is called Harbinger. Audronis explains that the real-time management and visualization solution is viewable on practically any device, including mobile or augmented reality. The system uses a video game engine for viewing, but as Audronis puts it, “the magic happens” on the back end.

Harbinger is not just drone-agnostic, but can use crowd-sourced data as well as static sensors. With the example of wildfires in mind, battalions can swarm an affected area to inform officials, stopping a fire before it gets out of hand. But fires are far from Harbinger’s only intended use.

The civilian version of Harbinger will be available for sale at the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024. For military use, Navy vet Audronis says that the product just entered Technical Readiness Level (TRL) 5, which means that they are about 18 months away from a full demo. The latest news for Tempest is that earlier this month, it was awarded a “Direct to Phase II” SBIR (Government Small Business Innovation Research) contract with the United States Department of the Air Force.

Not bad for a company that was, until recently, fully bootstrapped. He credits his time with the Houston Founder Institute, from which he graduated last February, and for which he now mentors, with many of the connections he’s made, including SBIR Advisors, who helped handle the complex process of getting their SBIR contract.

And he and Abramowitz have no plans to end their collaborations now that they’re seeing growth.

“Our philosophy behind [our business] isn’t keeping our cards close to our vest,” says Audronis. “Any potential competitors, we want to become partners.”

The company was just the two founders until five weeks ago, when Tempest’s size doubled, including a full-time developer. Once Tempest receives its SIBR check, the team will grow again to include more developers. They are currently looking for offices in the city. As Audronis says, Tempest Droneworx is “100-percent made in Houston.” Paradise may have been lost, but with Harbinger soon to be available, such a disaster need never happen again.

Dana Abramowitz and Ty Audronis co-founded Tempest Droneworks. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

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