Published: 01 September, 2008
An unmanned drone is the latest tool in California’s arsenal against wild land fires.
The drone developed by NASA scientists has already proved useful. After spotting a flare-up near the town of Paradise, evacuation orders were issued for 10,000 people. Other aircraft were prevented from patrolling the area by the smoke and heat.
“This unmanned plane is a true life-saver. But even though we get all this terrific help, California needs more resources, there’s no two ways about it,” said California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Ikhana unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was NASA’s answer to a request from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for imagery.
NASA installed an Autonomous Modular Scanner in the UAV to enable fire locations to be mapped by temperature. Hot-spot information is transmitted from the UAV simultaneously to the Multi-Agency Coordination Centre in Redding, and the State Operations Centre in Sacramento, and then overlayed on digital maps that are then relayed to firefighters on the fireground.