ROBOT: NASA to test high-tech firefighting plane

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Thu Sep 06 2001 - 06:27:17 MDT

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- A NASA scientist said Tuesday the next
generation of firefighting technology has been built: a robot plane able to
circle for up to 24 hours over wildfires, beaming video images and data back
to Earth computers by satellite.

The Altus II unmanned plane, which will make a demonstration flight for
firefighters Thursday, employs cutting edge technology usually seen in
military aircraft, giving fire officials a real-time view of fires that can
burn over hundreds of thousands of acres.

The plane could map dozens of fires and topographical features in a day, never
endangering a pilot.

NASA Project scientist Steve Wegener said such technology would catapult fire
crews into a new era in firefighting.

"Right now they have an infrared system that is using very overloaded and old
technology," he said.

"They have maybe three planes go up and take a few pictures in the evening,
getting two or three fires at the most. Then they have to land and hand a
piece of paper to a runner to take it out to the fire camp. It's very labor

NASA unveiled the Altus II, developed and built with privately owned General
Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. of San Diego, California, during a fire
season in which wildfires raged across much of the western United States and
at least two people died fighting wildfires.

The plane is a variant of the "Predator" unmanned surveillance aircraft
manufactured by General Atomics and used by the U.S. Air Force.

"These unmanned (aircraft) are really pretty special because they can be put
in dangerous situations and not put a pilot at risk," Wegener said.
"Firefighting is dangerous. If we can make it less dangerous that's a great
step all around."

He said the plane sends thermal imagery through a satellite link and onto the
Internet, where firefighters could access it to make minute-by-minute

"They will have a real-time product to aid them in disaster management," he
said. "We could also do floods, earthquakes and pollution events. What we're
providing is a snapshot within minutes of taking the imagery."

"And the exciting part of this is that its a geo-registered image. The image
is built up in proportion to lay exactly over a map with exact known locations
of every pixel that puts accurate imagery in the hands of disaster managers
who can trust it move resources around," Wegener said.

"They can layer this image over any computerized map they use -- for example a
topographical map or a Red Cross map."

He said the Altus II, which is controlled by pilots on the ground, still
needed to clear a few hurdles, including regulatory issues with the Federal
Aviation Administration.


Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego

     Everything that can happen has already happened, not just once,
     but an infinite number of times, and will continue to do so forever.
     (Everything that can happen = more than anyone can imagine.)

We won't move into a better future until we debunk religiosity, the most
regressive force now operating in society.

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