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Fri, Jun 30, 2006

NASA Tests Concept For Firefighting UAVs

Would Fly At Night... When Manned Planes Can't

Could crews battling harsh summertime wildfires throughout the country one day benefit from UAVs? That's a question NASA is seeking to answer... and from the sound of it, the agency may just be on to something.

Scientists with NASA's Ames research facility in California are experimenting with a specially-equipped drone aircraft, that could provide firefighters an overhead look at the flames on overnight missions. Manned observation and firebomber planes are grounded at night for safety reasons.

As NASA research scientist Vince Ambrosia put it to Los Angeles television station KNBC... the drones would be an ideal answer to "Triple-D" missions -- dull, dark, and dangerous -- in that they could orbit a fire for hours on end, monitoring the path of the flames... while keeping human firefighting pilots out of danger.

Earlier this month, the US Forest Service intentionally set fires at California's Fort Hunter Liggett to test the UAVs' abilities... and the results, reportedly, are encouraging.



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