A remotely piloted aircraft carrying a NASA sensor flew over much of California earlier this week, gathering information that will be used to help fight more than 300 wildfires burning within the state. Additional flights are planned for next week.

The flights by NASA's unmanned Ikhana aircraft are using a sophisticated Autonomous Modular Scanner developed at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. The flights are originating from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Ikhana's onboard sensor can detect temperature differences from less than one-half degree to approximately 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The scanner operates like a digital camera with specialized filters to detect light energy at visible, infrared and thermal wavelengths.

NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service have partnered to obtain http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/fire_and_smoke.html 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.

"NASA's emergency imaging gives us immediate information that we can use to manage fires, identify threats and deploy firefighting assets," California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said. "I thank NASA for providing us with this important firefighting tool that will help us maximize attacks on the more than 300 active fires currently burning in California."

The Ikhana aircraft is imaging almost 4,000 square miles from Santa Barbara north to the Oregon border. The flights provide critical information about the location, size and terrain around the fires to commanders in the field in as little as 10 minutes. The first mission on July 8 flew over 10 individual and complex fires along a route over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, west to the Cub Complex fire and south to the Gap Fire in Santa Barbara County.


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