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Wed, Oct 24, 2007

NASA Sends Ikhana UAV To Help Fight SoCal Fires

Aircraft Equipped With Thermal Imaging Sensors

In response to a request from the California Office of Emergency Services and the National Interagency Fire Center, NASA is flying an aircraft equipped with sophisticated infrared imaging equipment Wednesday to assist firefighters battling several of the Southern California wildfires.

The Ikhana unmanned aircraft system, a Predator B modified for civil science and research missions, was launched about 0845 PDT from its base at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. It is expected to fly over the major blazes burning in the Lake Arrowhead and Running Springs areas and possibly down into San Diego County to image wildfires raging in that area. The aircraft is controlled remotely by pilots in a ground control station at NASA Dryden.

The Ikhana is carrying the Autonomous Modular Scanner, a thermal-infrared imaging system developed at NASA's Ames Research Center in Northern California. The system is capable of peering through heavy smoke and darkness to see hot spots, flames and temperature differences, processing the imagery on-board, and then transmitting that information in near real time so it can aid fire incident commanders in allocating their firefighting resources.

The images are transmitted through a communications satellite to NASA Ames where the imagery is placed on an Ames Web site, combined with Google Earth maps, and then transmitted to the interagency fire center in Boise, ID where it is then made available to incident commanders in the field.

As ANN reported, the Ikhana system was validated recently during a series of wildfire imaging demonstration missions conducted by NASA and the US Forest Service in August and September.

Mission managers indicated a second imaging flight may occur on Thursday, October 25, as well. Each flight is being coordinated with the FAA to allow the remotely piloted aircraft to fly within the national airspace while maintaining separation from other aircraft.



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