Altair Unmanned Plane Snaps Photos Of Fatal Arson Blaze
Here's a definite example of the good that unmanned aerial
vehicles (UAVs) can do in dangerous situations. Aero-News has
learned a team led by NASA and US Forest Service scientists
recently collected real-time, visible and infrared data from
sensors onboard a remotely piloted aircraft over the Esperanza Fire
in Southern California.
The Esperanza Fire, an arson-set fire that claimed the lives of
five firefighters, was ignited on Thursday, October 26. Whipped by
powerful Santa Ana winds, it spread over 40,200 acres, or roughly
62 square miles, destroying 34 homes and 20 other structures.
The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services and the
Esperanza Fire Incident Command Center requested NASA's imaging and
fire mapping assistance.
The Altair Unmanned Aircraft System -- built and operated by
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of San Diego, CA -- was
prepared to fly in less than 24 hours. The flight was facilitated
by the Federal Aviation Administration, which assures the safety of
unmanned aircraft system flights in the National Airspace
Recent changes to the FAA's organizational structure allowed the
approval to be expedited, while ensuring no degradation of safety
and without imposing any new temporary flight restrictions.
From an altitude of 43,000 feet, the wildfire sensor collected
and sent 100 images and more than 20 data files containing the
location of the fire perimeter over a 16-hour period on October 28
and 29. The data were delivered in real time through a satellite
communications link. NASA and Forest Service specialists worked to
familiarize the fire management team with accessing capabilities
and sensor data format. The data from the NASA system were used by
the Esperanza Fire Incident Command Center to map fire behavior and
direct resources to critical areas on the fire.
The flight project was sponsored and funded by NASA's Science
Mission Directorate. The team consisted of NASA's Ames Research
Center, Moffett Field, CA; NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center,
Edwards, CA; The National Interagency Fire Center, Boise, ID; US
Forest Service Remote Sensing Laboratory, Salt Lake City, UT;
California Governor's Office of Emergency Services; California
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Sacramento, CA; and
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.