There’s a wildfire, Dr. Stone — Andromeda Strain
A remotely piloted aircraft carrying a NASA sensor flew over much of California earlier this week , gathering information that will be used to help fight more than 300 wildfires burning within the state.
NASA’s unmanned Ikhana aircraft, derived from a General Atomics Predator uses a sophisticated Autonomous Modular Scanner developed at NASA’s Ames. Ikhana’s onboard sensor can detect temperature differences from less than one-half degree to approximately 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
NASA bought a ground control station and satellite communication system from General Atomics. The ground control station is in a mobile trailer and includes the pilot’s “cockpit,” as well as computer workstations for scientists and engineers.
The Ikhana aircraft imaged almost 4,000 square miles from Santa Barbara north to the Oregon border during a flight on July 8 which provided information about the location, size and terrain around the fires to commanders in the field in as little as 10 minutes. More than 400 pounds of sensors can be carried internally and over 2,000 pounds in external under-wing pods.
Fire images are collected onboard Ikhana and transmitted through a communications satellite to NASA Ames. There, the imagery is superimposed over Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth maps. The imagery is then transmitted to the Multi-Agency Coordination Center in Redding, Calif., and the State Operations Center in Sacramento, which distribute fire data to incident commanders in the field.
From a ground control center, NASA pilots are flying the aircraft in close coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is allowing flights within the national airspace while maintaining safe separation from other aircraft.
NASA was working with the Forest Service on a demonstration mission later this summer, but moved up the schedule in response to the widespread fires.
The Zephyr solar-powered UAV technology, developed by British defense research group QinetiQ, will be used in Boeing’s ultra-long endurance planes for the military. The Zephyr flies on solar power and through the night on batteries. Boeing’s Vulture UAV hopes to carry a 1,000-pound, 5-kilowatt payload, maintaining its on-station position for 5 years.
NASA satellites also are capturing imagery of the wildfires. NASA’s EO-1 hyperspectrual satellite, using the Hyperion spectrometer observes 220 contiguous wavelengths, spanning the spectrum from visible light to shortwave infrared.
Apple’s iPhone App Store may emerge as the No. 1 reason why people switch to the iPhone 3G this year, says Richard Doherty, director at consultancy Envisioneering Group. I-Phone application like Twitterific let users access Twitter from their handset. uLocate lets users find friends nearby. Loopt uses an interactive map to find your friends, communicate, and find other points of interest.
Social networks like Twitter have created a networked community of active, vital people. That’s where groups like Mercy Corps and Humaninet come in. They have real-world experience and know what’s needed in an emergency.
The HumaniNet team will be at Portland’s NW Lucky Lab tavern tonight (19th & Quimby) for an informal update and roundtable on their Maps 2.0 initiative and related projects with Google Earth/Maps, GPS, and GIS in general.
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