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The search for Steve Fossett, last seen Sept. 3rd, has taken a high-tech turn, but the adventurer remains missing despite early search efforts by the the U.S. Civil Air Patrol, the Naval Air Station Fallon; the Nevada National Guard; and the California Highway Patrol.

Hyperspectral imaging (wikipedia) can photograph the same object on hundreds of different spectrum bands, not just two or three visible and infrared bands. Unique spectral signatures can precisely identify objects or phenomena.

A Gippsland GA-8 Airvan from the Utah Wing, equipped with CAP’s ARCHER hyperspectral imaging system, was dispatched to assist in the mission.

A set of parameters describing the target’s color and shape is programmed into the system, and through a sophisticated algorithm, the ARCHER system is able to differentiate a potential target from background clutter.

ARCHER alerts the instrument operator of an object match, then displays its location in earth coordinates, while a high resolution camera provides enlarged images of the identified areas.

It’s reportedly the nation’s first fully operational, large-scale hyperspectral imaging system.

ARCHER (Airborne Real time Cueing Hyperspectral Enhanced Reconnaissance), can identify a target using as little as 10 percent of the target’s characteristics. Using an on-board computer to take a spectral picture, that information is then relayed, by e-mail and satellite phone using CAP’s satellite-transmitted digital-imaging system, to units on the ground as they conduct their search.

The search area includes an area roughly 600 square miles in size, extending from the Yerington area to Bishop, Calif., and about 200 miles wide with a western boundary following the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Fossett’s Citabria Super Decathalon is blue and white with orange stripes and blue sunburst designs on top of the wings.

Steve Fossett has set 116 records in five different sports, 76 of which still stand. He is best known for his five world record nonstop circumnavigations of the Earth: as a long-distance solo balloonist, as a sailor, and as a solo airplane pilot.

The $6 million Ikhana aircraft (above), has a wingspan of 66 feet and is 36 feet long.The unmanned aircraft, built by General Atomics and based on the Predator B, can collect data during flights lasting up to 30 hours without refueling. Here is a link to several larger versions of this photo and more pictures in this photo gallery.

The thermal-infrared sensors also Map Wildfires. A 12-channel spectral sensor runs from the visible spectrum into the reflected infrared and mid-infrared spectrum. It shot wildfires burning in the Pacific Northwest.

The data is overlaid on Google Earth maps and downlinked in near-real time to the Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, and made available to fire incident commanders to assist them in allocating their fire-fighting resources. The U.S. Forest Service and NASA are also testing the technology over wildfires in California.

The project is being co-ordinated via Amazon’s human-powered problem solving scheme called the Mechanical Turk. The Mechanical Turk pays people to perform tasks that computers would struggle to complete, such as translating text or evaluating images. For example, the creators of the search scheme said Mr Fossett’s plane would appear as an object about “21 pixels long and 30 pixels in wingspan”.

In other news, BoosterVision is selling a $280 1-watt transmitter/receiver and CCD camera system for rocket and R/C airplane hobbyists (below). An included 12db Radome antenna increases range up to 15,000 feet.

Live tracking of remote sensors can be enabled with WebTalker, a wireless mesh networking system that uses WiFi or cellular networks for backhaul. MachineTalkers are battery powered microprocessors equipped with radios and analog and digital circuitry to service all types of sensors including local temperature, humidity, vibration, the presence of various gases or intrusion so users can view assets and control sensors over the Internet. They’re sometimes incorporated on UAVs (pdf).

Verizon Wireless is using its Cell on Wheels (COW), a self-contained mobile cell site, to boost wireless coverage for emergency crews battling the 24-thousand-acre Gray’s Creek fire near Council, Idaho. So far this year, Verizon Wireless has deployed mobile cell sites and other equipment to more than a dozen wildfire incidents around the country.

Related DailyWireless stories include, Minneapolis Bridge Collapse & Emergency Communications, The Kim Search, Mountain Rescue UAVs, E911 & Triangulation, Cellular Triangulation, Body of James Kim Found, The Infinite Zoom, Microsoft’s 3D Photo Flyby, Microsoft’s Amazing Virtual Earth, Microsoft Buys Vexcel, Mapping Goes Live, Geocoding Content & Telemetry, HDTV from Aircraft, Panoramic Video, Scanners 3D, Vessel Monitoring, Border Surveillence, Tracking Hazardous Materials — & The Iditarod,
Polar Flight Telemetry, Antartic Communications, Gigapixel Imaging, Virtual Earth Adds Cities and Panoramic EventCam.

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