“After processing, the images are transmitted through a communications satellite to NASA Ames where the imagery is placed on an Ames Web site. Then the imagery is combined with Google Earth maps,” said Vince Ambrosia of NASA Ames, the project’s principal investigator.
With California’s Santiago fire burning over 426,000 acres, and displacing over 500,000 people from their homes, NASA has stepped in with their IKHANA UAV aircraft and the Google Earth Maps to assist. Working with firefighters who are suffering from sheer exhaustion due to being on their feet for over three days of heavy firefighting, NASA today has joined ranks in order to remotely fly their Ikhana over seven of the twelve wildfires in California with the highest of technology available to mankind.
NASA’s Ikhana is carrying a sensor package of instruments that have been specially developed by the space agency to see through smoke, while transmitting infra-red images and temperate data down to the firemen on the ground, in order to help them better strategically fight the fires. With a 10-hour flight plan developed to fight the California fires, it flew out of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
The Ikhana is one of the U.S. Air Force planes operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the Ikhana airplane specially designed for NASA as a long-endurance plane that specializes in high-altitude flights. An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which is flown remotely by pilots at NASA’s Dryden, the Ikhana is a General Atomics Aeronautial Systems Predator B. It specialized in working with special sensors to process the fire images on board the plane, before sending them down to the firefighters. With the Autonomous Modular Sensor-Wildfire developed for the Ikhana, it allows the remotely flown predator to look around while carrying the fire sensor package. Approximately a month ago, NASA at Dryden had done a Ikhana demonstration flight series as part of the Western States Fire Mission in order to show their improved wildfire imaging and mapping capabilities, according to Yahoo news.
Oh, by the way-IKHANA is a Native American Choctaw term that refers to intelligence, conscious or aware. NASA felt it was appropriate due to the research goals NASA had a established for the Ikhana and its related systems. Another piece of added news is that the Ikhana aircraft was purchased by NASA Dryden in November of 2006, “adapted for environmental science and technology research missions.” According to the Yahoo report, each mission is coordinated with the FAA to allow the remotely piloted aircraft to fly within the United States national airspace, while maintaining separation from other aircraft.