USA — NASA will deploy an unmanned airplane to help inthe battle to contain wildfires raging through Southern California.
NASA announced Wednesday that the Ikhana would take off from Dryden FlightResearch Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California to provide firefighterswith aerial images. The aircraft was scheduled for a 10-hour mission to observefires near Lake Arrowhead. NASA planned to fly the craft south to San DiegoCounty, near the Mexican border.
The unmanned plane carries instruments that can see through smoke and detecthot spots, flame levels, and temperatures. The images are processed on theaircraft, which is flown remotely by pilots at the flight research center. TheFAA coordinates the flights so they don’t pose a threat to other aircraft.
“After processing, the images are transmitted through a communicationssatellite to NASA Ames, where the imagery is placed on an Ames Website,”Jim Brass, an Ikhana mission manager, said in a prepared statement. “Thenthe imagery is combined with Google (NSDQ: GOOG)Earth maps.”
NASA flew Ikhana last month for the Western States Fire Mission todemonstrate improved wildfire imaging and mapping capabilities. NASA Ames hasdeveloped infrared imaging sensors and real-timedata communications for the Predator B, built by General Atomics AeronauticalSystems.
NASA said the unmanned plane has been adapted for environmental science andtechnology research missions.
“We anticipated an event like the wildfire siege in Southern Californiaoccurring in October,” investigator Vince Ambrosia of NASA Ames said in aprepared statement. “When the call came on Monday from the NationalInteragency Fire Center, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services,and colleagues within the Incident Command structure on the fires, we were readyto quickly deploy our teams and initiate a mission plan to over fly the firesand provide critical thermal infrared intelligence.”
NASA teams also have dispersed to work at the firefighting camps, with Google,and with the National Interagency Fire Center, Ambrosia said.