NASA imaging sensor prepares for western wildfire season

Apr 12, 2013

(Phys.org) —Airborne imaging technology developed at NASA and transferred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service (USFS) in 2012 is being tested to prepare for this year's wildfire season in the western United States.

The Autonomous Modular Sensor (AMS) is a scanning spectrometer designed to help detect hot-spots, active fires, and smoldering and post- conditions. Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and USFS engineers installed it on a Cessna Citation aircraft that belongs to the Forest Service. The USFS plans to use it in operational fire imaging and measurement.

The western United States is expected to have continued droughts this year resulting in increased potential for fire outbreaks, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho. To help mitigate fire danger, NASA researchers and USFS firefighters are collaborating to improve fire management capabilities.

"NASA technologies in the fields of data communication, aircraft systems, advanced sensing systems and real-time information processing finally have coalesced into the operational use that supports national needs in wildfire management," said Vincent Ambrosia, principal investigator of the Wildfire Research and Applications Partnership project and a senior research scientist at Ames and California State University, Monterey Bay.

Developed by NASA's Airborne Sciences Program, the Autonomous Modular Sensor acquires high-resolution imagery of the Earth's features from its vantage point aboard research aircraft. The sensor transmits nearly real-time data to ground disaster management investigators for analysis.

The sensor has been modified to fly on various crewed and uncrewed platforms, including NASA's Ikhana remotely piloted aircraft, a Predator-B modified to conduct airborne research. Between 2006 and 2010 the AMS flew on the Ikhana and NASA's B-200 King Air to demonstrate sensor capabilities, support national and state emergency requests for wildfire data, and ensure its operational readiness.

Data gathered during those flights was used to develop and test algorithms for scientific programs that monitor changes in environmental conditions, assess global change and respond to natural disasters.

The Autonomous Modular Sensor will be operated daily over wildfires throughout the United States, providing an unprecedented amount of data to the fire research and applications communities. USFS also will use the sensor to support other agency objectives, such as vegetation inventory analysis and water and river mapping.

"I see tremendous opportunity for my agency and other land management agencies to benefit from the application of NASA-developed technology," said Everett Hinkley, national remote sensing program manager with USFS in Arlington, Va. "The AMS expands our current capabilities and offers efficiencies in a number of remote-sensing applications including fire, post-fire and forest health applications."

NASA will continue to support the Forest Service's use of the Autonomous Modular Sensor. Researchers with NASA and other agencies will have access to the data and can request mission use through partnerships.

Explore further: Tropical tempests take encouragement from environment

More information: For more information about Autonomous Modular Sensor, visit: airbornescience.nasa.gov/instrument/AMS

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA Aircraft Flies Calif. Wildfire Post-Burn Mission

Nov 25, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's remotely piloted Predator B aircraft, named Ikhana, recently conducted post-burn assessments of two Southern California wildfire sites, the Piute Fire in Kern County and the Station Fire in the Angeles ...

NASA aircraft to trek globe in 2012 for earth studies

Feb 15, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- While NASA's fleet of Earth science spacecraft -- its "eyes on the Earth" - continues to monitor the pulse of our home planet, 2012 is also shaping up to be an extraordinary time for NASA's ...

NASA satellite sees several western US fires blazing

Jun 22, 2012

Fires are raging in the western U.S. and in one overpass from its orbit around the Earth, NASA's Aqua satellite picked up smoke and identified hot spots from fires in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.

Recommended for you

New research reveals Pele is powerful, even in the sky

4 hours ago

One might assume that a tropical storm moving through volcanic smog (vog) would sweep up the tainted air and march on, unchanged. However, a recent study from atmospheric scientists at the University of Hawai'i ...

Image: Wildfires continue near Yellowknife, Canada

5 hours ago

The wildfires that have been plaguing the Northern Territories in Canada and have sent smoke drifting down to the Great Lakes in the U.S. continue on. NASA's Aqua satellite collected this natural-color image ...

Excavated ship traced to Colonial-era Philadelphia

6 hours ago

Four years ago this month, archeologists monitoring the excavation of the former World Trade Center site uncovered a ghostly surprise: the bones of an ancient sailing ship. Tree-ring scientists at Columbia ...

Tropical tempests take encouragement from environment

7 hours ago

Mix some warm ocean water with atmospheric instability and you might have a recipe for a cyclone. Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Atlanta Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory ...

User comments : 0