NASA Unmanned Aircraft Back On Fire Duty
Drone first served fire fighters in October’s wildfires in Santa Clarita.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been touting the use of NASA’s unmanned aircraft called the Ikhana for firefighting purposes in Northern California.
The aircraft flies above the fire area and scans the terrain, relaying detailed information to crews on the ground.
This is helpful because during a large fire, it can accurately determine the movement of the blaze, and what type of terrain it will be moving towards.
The drone has the ability to distribute scanned information in 3D within 5 minutes of the flyover, which is a major improvement from previous techniques. Formerly, fire crews relied on aerial photographs, which were often delayed extensively while they were developed and printed.
“ California ’s unprecedented number of fires this early in the season make it all the more important that we use every tool at our disposal to protect property and save lives,” Governor Schwarzenegger said. “NASA’s Ikhana is one more incredible tool that we are able to use this year to bring real-time pictures and data to fire commanders, even when our other aircraft are unable to fly. The federal government has been an active partner in helping California fight fires, and NASA’s assistance is one more example of that cooperation.”
While the Ikhana is currently employed in the fires in Northern California, it actually made its statewide debut last October in the skies above Santa Clarita.
The Ikhana was used for surveying purposes during the Ranch fire in Castaic, and was also commissioned for use in some San Diego blazes. The drone’s achievement in the October wildfires has propelled its popularity among ground crews, and will likely make it a staple in future firefights.