Government Technology

    Digital Communities
    Industry Members

  • Click sponsor logos for whitepapers, case studies, and best practices.
  • McAfee

Unmanned Aircraft Currently Mapping Alaska Wildfires


Insitu ScanEagle
Insitu ScanEagle

August 11, 2009 By

Photo: Insitu ScanEagle in flight.

For much of the last week, staff from Poker Flat Research Range have been assisting fire personnel in mapping the Crazy Mountain Complex fires with unmanned aircraft. The mapping operation is using 40-pound Insitu ScanEagles equipped with infrared cameras.

Poker Flat Research Range (PFRR) is the only non-federal, university operated range in the world and the only high-latitude, auroral-zone rocket launching facility in the U.S. It has been owned and operated by the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute since 1968.

The University of Alaska's Unmanned Aircraft Program is also based at Poker Flat Research Range. This program was established in 2006 and has now has a total of four aircraft.

Lightning strikes caused the Crazy Mountain Complex fires. There are currently 311 personnel assigned to the fires that have burned more than 440,000 acres, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center. The Crazy Mountain Complex consists of four fires: the Bluff Creek Fire, the Jagged Ridge Fire, the Little Black One Fire and Puzzle Gulch Fire.

According to information released by the University of Alaska, the unmanned aircraft have collected data that has allowed fire personnel to track the progression of fires and current hot spots. This work has proven difficult with manned aircraft. Dense and widespread smoke has grounded or severely limited logistical support from the air in recent days.

"With the infrared sensors aboard our unmanned aircraft, they're identifying where the edge of the fire is," said Ro Bailey, special projects manager at Poker Flat Research Range, in a statement. "Anything the aircrafts get will be used to improve the accuracy of the current fire maps."

The infrared cameras are performing exceptionally well. The equipment has the ability to peer through dense smoke as the unmanned aircraft fly above active fires. A ground-based pilot controls the aircraft during its flight.

When the university's unmanned aircraft is in flight, no other aircraft is permitted in the airspace. The University of Alaska is the first entity, other than NASA or the Department of Defense, to receive an emergency certificate of authority from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly in civil airspace with an unmanned aircraft beyond line-of-sight.

Poker Flat Research Range manager Greg Walker and optical science manager Don Hampton are piloting the aircraft, while Kathe Rich, the team's operations controller, is monitoring safety and providing logistical support.

Poker Flat staff have partnered with the FAA, the Bureau of Land Management and the Alaska Fire Service on this project. The mission allows the University of Alaska's Unmanned Aircraft Program the ability to gain additional flight opportunities, while providing a needed service to the agencies working to protect Alaskans from fire danger.

"This is a chance for us to take what we're doing in research and give it back to the community," Bailey said. "We're learning valuable things as we're going along, too, so this is a great opportunity for everyone involved."

 

More info:

http://fire.ak.blm.gov/

http://inciweb.org/incident/1780

 


| More

Comments

Add Your Comment

You are solely responsible for the content of your comments. We reserve the right to remove comments that are considered profane, vulgar, obscene, factually inaccurate, off-topic, or considered a personal attack.

In Our Library

White Papers | Exclusives Reports | Webinar Archives | Best Practices and Case Studies
Digital Cities & Counties Survey: Best Practices Quick Reference Guide
This Best Practices Quick Reference Guide is a compilation of examples from the 2013 Digital Cities and Counties Surveys showcasing the innovative ways local governments are using technological tools to respond to the needs of their communities. It is our hope that by calling attention to just a few examples from cities and counties of all sizes, we will encourage further collaboration and spark additional creativity in local government service delivery.
Wireless Reporting Takes Pain (& Wait) out of Voting
In Michigan and Minnesota counties, wireless voting via the AT&T network has brought speed, efficiency and accuracy to elections - another illustration of how mobility and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology help governments to bring superior services and communication to constituents.
Why Would a City Proclaim Their Data “Open by Default?”
The City of Palo Alto, California, a 2013 Center for Digital Government Digital City Survey winner, has officially proclaimed “open” to be the default setting for all city data. Are they courageous or crazy?
View All