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NASA's Ikhana Aircraft Helps Fight 1,000+ California Fires
December 15, 2010
 


    › Benefits of Technology Transfer
    › On the Record
    › Technology Origins
    › Finding a New Use
    › The Transfer Process
    › Looking Ahead
    › For More Information

Ikhana team receives prestigious Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer award

The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) awarded an Interagency Partnership Award to the Wildfire Research and Applications Partnership (WRAP), a joint effort between NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Forest Service. WRAP has enabled scientists and engineers to participate in managing forest fires through remote sensing observations on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) missions. The remotely piloted Ikhana aircraft, based at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center, flew over much of California in 2007 and 2008 to gather information that was used to help fight hundreds of wildfires burning within the state. Because of this interagency partnership, wildlife agencies are better positioned to fight wildfires, reduce expenditures, evacuate at-risk populations, and save lives.

The Benefits of Technology Transfer

  • Enhances public safety: NASA's remote sensing observations help firefighters identify fire boundaries and hot spots so they can more effectively fight wildfires, protect public and private property, evacuate vulnerable areas, and save lives.
  • Strengthens return on investment: A NASA aircraft originally used as a testbed for advanced sensor research now benefits U.S. taxpayers by helping reduce expenditures and losses associated with widespread, life-threatening wildfires.
  • Advances technology: NASA has pioneered the use of piloted and UAV aircraft, advanced sensors, and data distribution technologies. Now this expertise is being adapted and used by state and local agencies to improve the assessment and response to wildfires.
  • Builds strong interagency partnerships: NASA and the USDA's Forest Service partnered to obtain imagery of the wildfires in response to requests from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, and the National Interagency Fire Center.

On the Record

"NASA's emergency imaging gives us immediate information that we can use to manage fires, identify threats, and deploy firefighting assets. I thank NASA for providing us with this important firefighting tool."
- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Technology Origins

Based at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center, the Ikhana aircraft was originally created as a testbed for advanced sensor research. The Ikhana was outfitted with a sophisticated thermal infrared scanner-the Autonomous Modular Sensor (AMS)-an airborne scanning spectrometer that acquires high spatial resolution imagery of the Earth's features. The sensor was developed to monitor variation in environmental conditions, assess global change, and respond to natural disasters.

Finding a New Use

The WRAP project was formed by NASA's Applied Sciences and Airborne Science programs and the Earth Science Technology Office in 2003. The project is a joint effort between NASA's Ames Research Center and NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center and the USDA Forest Service to explore innovative technologies to improve remote sensing observations of forest fires. Other agencies involved in this cooperative effort include the National Interagency Fire Center, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Partners from the U.S. Forest Service created the Tactical Fire Remote Sensing Advisory Committee and asked this team to prioritize the technological and scientific gaps that currently existed in firefighting methods. NASA worked with this advisory committee to share the agency's expertise and help fill knowledge gaps within the disaster management community.

The Transfer Process

In response to requests from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, and the National Interagency Fire Center, NASA's Ikhana aircraft flew over much of California to gather information that was used to help fight hundreds of wildfires burning within the state. In November 2009, Ikhana was also used for post-burn assessment, helping state officials anticipate and plan for possible floods and landslides later in the season.

Looking Ahead

NASA will continue to provide critical support to firefighters in California and help wildfire management agencies work toward developing their own sensor capabilities. NASA is also finding new ways to assist in fire management, such as conducting a feasibility study on using satellite data to estimate fuel loads (biomass and forest undergrowth), using remote sensing data to help forest managers effectively monitor and manage wildfire fuel buildup, and conducting post-burn assessments of wildfire sites.

For More Information

Technology Transfer Office
NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center
PO Box 273, M/S 1100
Edwards, CA 93523-0273
Phone: (661) 276-3368
E-mail: DFRC-TTO@mail.nasa.gov

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Page Last Updated: March 4th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator