Magazine article National Defense

NASA Aerial Drone Collects Disaster Data

Magazine article National Defense

NASA Aerial Drone Collects Disaster Data

Article excerpt

A joint NASA-U.S. Forest Service program demonstrated the value of using an aerial drone to respond to disaster scenarios this summer when it flew a series of long-duration flights to map wildfires that plagued the western states.

Unmanned aerial vehicles saw some action gathering images in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2006. UAV proponents, who are pushing the Federal Aviation Administration to approve more domestic applications for the technology, have touted their benefits for disaster response.

NASA's Ikhana, a Predator B manufactured by General Atomics, and adapted for civil missions, flew its first operational missions from mid-August through September from Dryden Flight Research Center, Calif.

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The first flight Aug. 16 captured images of California wildfires, including the Zaca Fire in Santa Barbara County. The aircraft's instruments collected data while flying more than 1,200 miles over a 10-hour period.

"The images from the flight demonstrated that this technology has a future in helping us fight wildland fires," said Zaca incident commander Mike Dietrich in a statement. …

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