NASA's Ikhana remotely piloted aircraft is flew a 3.5-hour mission on Friday, Sept. 19 over several California wildfires, with a sophisticated thermal-infrared device capturing imagery of the fires' hot spots. The Autonomous Modular Scanner or AMS, developed by NASA's Ames Research Center, imaged two fires in the southern Sierra Nevadas, the Cascadel Fire in Madera County and the Hidden Fire about 30 miles northeast of Visalia in Tulare County. The aircraft flew pre-planned tracks over these areas, enabling the sensor to capture imagery of active fire spots along with previously burned areas for Burn Area Environmental Rehabilitation.
Image right: NASA's Autonomous Modular Scanner mounted on the Ikhana remotely piloted aircraft captured this thermal-infrared imagery during two passes over the Hidden wildfire during a flight over the southern Sierras about 30 miles northeast of Visalia in Central California Sept. 19. This false-color, three-dimensional image shows unburned vegetation in green, smoke and bare areas in bluish-white, and fire hot spots in yellow and red, overlaid on a Google Earth Digital Globe terrain image.
The Ikhana, a General Atomics' Predator B optimized for civil environmental science and technology demonstration missions, took off from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base shortly after 8 a.m. and returned about 11:30 a.m. Pacific time. Friday's flight, and an additional night fight tentatively planned for the week of Sept. 22, are part of the Western States Fire Mission technology demonstration..
NASA pilots flew the aircraft in close coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, which allowed the aircraft to fly within the national airspace while maintaining safe separation from other aircraft. The images were collected onboard Ikhana and transmitted through a communications satellite to NASA Ames where the imagery was placed on an Ames Web site and superimposed over Google Earth maps of the fires.
NASA's Applied Sciences and Airborne Science programs and the Earth Science Technology Office funded development of the AMS fire sensor, with the intent of having the capabilities demonstrated in the Western States Fire Mission transitioned to operational agencies.