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California formalized an arrangement to use NASA sensing technology to manage wildfire disasters.
NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection inked the five-year deal this week.
Ames developed a visible, infrared and thermal sensor called the NASA Autonomous Modular Scanner that has operated on NASA’s Predator B unmanned aircraft (UAV) and a manned B-200 King Air operated by NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.
The scanner provides real-time wildfire imaging data over large-scale disaster events in the western United States and particularly in California. Part of the technology involves performing all processing autonomously aboard the aircraft, and relaying the information through a satellite communications system to disaster managers located anywhere in the world.
“The two entities have had an ad-hoc partnership for the last 25 years and this agreement formalizes our working relationship and allows the two agencies to explore new and exciting technology developments and capabilities that support the needs of the people of California,” said Vince Ambrosia, NASA Ames’ principal investigator and senior scientist of the collaborative effort.
“CAL FIRE is proud to formalize its partnership with NASA,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of CAL FIRE. “Under this agreement we will cooperatively explore the use and future transfer of advanced fire sensing technology.”
The system worked well during several major wildfire events in southern California in 2007 and during the lightning fires in Northern California in 2008. Those missions were aboard the NASA Ikhana UAV. The team is now focusing on integrating and operating the sensor aboard the manned B-200 King Air aircraft.
“The B-200 has more rapid response capability than the unmanned aerial vehicles. The exciting element is that we have the ability to use different platforms as the mission requirements change,” Ambrosia said.

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