NASA NewsPosted August 30th, 2007 by
Following severe heat and drought in the West and Southeast this summer, NASA and the U.S. Forest Service are testing technologies developed by NASA and the military to improve wildfire imaging and mapping capabilities. Through September, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center is conducting flights of a remotely piloted unmanned aircraft system to demonstrate the capabilities of its imaging and real-time communications equipment.
NASA’s Ikhana Predator B remotely piloted aircraft, adapted for civil missions, is flying its first operational effort during a series of four or five missions over the western states. Its sensor payload is collecting detailed thermal-infrared imagery of wildfires and is demonstrating the ability of unmanned aircraft systems to collect data continuously for 12 to 24 hours.
“These tests are a ground-breaking effort to expand the use of unmanned aircraft systems in providing real-time images in an actual fire event,” said Vincent Ambrosia, principal investigator of the Western States Fire Mission at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “This is a prime example of NASA science and technology being used to solve real-world problems.”
A satellite data link allows real-time transfer of fire imagery tovirtually anywhere on Earth. Information from the sensor is transmitted to Ames where it is simultaneously available to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, ID, as a Google Earth overlay and through NASA/Open Geospatial Consortium Web services.
Scientists are also testing the Collaborative Decision Environment software, a new technology application originally developed by NASA for the Mars Exploration Rovers. The interactive tool allows sharing of vast amounts of information with members of the mission team for effective planning and acquisition of imagery over critical fire events.