NASA and Forest Service partner on wildland fires in California

NASA and Forest Service partner on wildland fires in California

20 August 2007

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VALLEJO, Calif. – California is experiencing a prolonged drought resulting in catastrophic wildfires burning statewide.

In an effort to provide better intelligence and information, NASA and the U.S. Forest Service have teamed up to test aerospace agency-developed technologies to aid wildfire imaging and mapping capabilities, a recent press release announced.

From mid-August through September, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center will conduct flights of a remotely piloted unmanned aircraft system to demonstrate imaging and real-time communications capabilities.

The first flight of the series, on Aug. 16, captured images of California wildfires, including the Zaca Fire in Santa Barbara County.

The aircraft carried instruments that collected data while flying more than 1,200 miles over a 10-hour period.

“The images from the flight yesterday demonstrated that this technology has a future in helping us fight wildland fires,” Zaca Incident Commander Mike Dietrich said in the release. “We could see little on the ground since the fire was generating a lot of smoke and burning in a very remote and inaccessible area. This technology captured images through the smoke and provided real-time information on what the fire was doing.”

Vincent Ambrosia, principal investigator of the Western States Fire Mission at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., stated in the release that the tests are a “ground-breaking effort” to expand the use of unmanned aircraft systems in providing real-time images of a fire.

Ambrosia called the effort “a prime example of NASA science and technology being used to solve real-world problems.”

According to the press release, the partnership between NASA and the U.S. Forest Service began during the Space Shuttle Columbia Search and Recovery in 2003.

The collaboration of the agencies during that effort set in motion NASA’s participation in other Forest Service activities.

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