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NASA Space Robotics

NASA Ikhana Assists SoCal Firefighters 60

Posted by Zonk
from the all-about-helping-those-in-need-with-robots dept.
ackthpt writes "Ikhana (a NASA drone) is primarily designed for suborbital earth sciences missions, but may be fitted out with a variety of sensors. Wednesday, Ikhana took off from Edwards Air Force Base for a 10 hour mission to observe forest fires in California, scanning the terrain from 23-25,000 feet using a variety of sensors for visible and IR light. Able to remain aloft for up to 30 continuous hours Ikhana serves up information in minutes, a process that takes hours when done by manned aircraft observation. 'The data is processed on the aircraft, up-linked to a satellite and then downloaded to a ground station. From there it's delivered to a computer server at NASA Ames. The imagery is then combined with Google Earth maps. Command center personnel can view the images on their computer screens and then delegate local firefighters accordingly.'"
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NASA Ikhana Assists SoCal Firefighters

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  • Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hadlock (143607) on Friday October 26, 2007 @09:20PM (#21136213) Homepage Journal
    Cut out the middle man (NASA) and you've got basically what they can do in Battlefield 2 from the Commander's view. Another five years and it'll stream straight to the google maps server for this specific function. We've already given google a nasa air strip, it's not long before we'll be giving them our tax dollars to leverage google maps/earth for more purposes beyond recovering crashed aircraft and scouting wildfires.
    • by CalSolt (999365)
      I see no reason why we would be paying them to use maps already made freely available by them.

      I bet within the next 50 years battlefield commanders will have a Command and Conquer style interface letting them observe from above and issue orders in real time across a wide area.
    • by HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) on Friday October 26, 2007 @11:27PM (#21137005)
      I got a TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) for Beal AFB, along with a message that they are using their bird to help with the fires. Global Hawks are the only aircraft at Beal that need a TFR to launch.
  • by GaryOlson (737642) <slashdot AT garyolson DOT org> on Friday October 26, 2007 @09:21PM (#21136221) Journal
    Can it Google map the hotspots where the really hot sorority girls congregate?
  • Wednesday, Ikhana (a NASA drone) took off from Edwards Air Force Base for a 10 hour mission to observe forest fires in California

    So, when do we get a NASA drone that will terminate forest fires in California?
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by UltraAyla (828879)
      I thought arnold was going to "terminate" the fires.
    • by TekGnos (624334)
      What they should make is an unmanned water tanker sort of airplane. It seems a little too risky that we are putting pilots lives in danger any way. Unmanned versions could go longer, require less upkeep (no stopping for pee breaks and such) and could maybe even fly at night.

      Then forest fires would be fun to put out! Like playing a game of Supreme Commander.
      • What they should make is an unmanned water tanker sort of airplane. It seems a little too risky that we are putting pilots lives in danger any way.

        Flying unmanned is harder than sitting in the seat. Among other things, you can't feel the aircraft moving around(wind gusts), and you can't hear the change in engine sounds, and your vision is limited to what is on the monitor.
        These aircraft are big. C-130 and DC-10. I don't think space to take a pee is an issue.
        • "Flying unmanned is harder than sitting in the seat. Among other things, you can't feel the aircraft moving around(wind gusts), and you can't hear the change in engine sounds, and your vision is limited to what is on the monitor."

          I blame the design of the system for that fault. The plane should know if the input it is getting will make it crash. The pilot station and engine also should not shutdown mid-flight. [flightglobal.com] The Predators keep crashing and they keep blaming the pilots. At some point, the pilot is no lon
        • by X0563511 (793323)
          I see no reason they can't have multi-axis accelerometers (and have intuitive ways to display such data), or have microphones that allow you to hear the engine pitch.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 26, 2007 @10:00PM (#21136489)
    "Manned airplanes have to land and download the data. You may not get the data for three or four or five hours" Or you could just use a standard Sierra Wireless AirCard. Thats what the company I work for does on our airplanes up here in Canada.
  • Now? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WalksOnDirt (704461)
    It's a little late to get maximum benefit from something like this. If the craft could have been put up Sunday, or even Monday, it would have been much more useful. I hope the delay is due to this being its first use, and that in future events it can be launched quickly.
    • Re:Now? (Score:5, Informative)

      by LarryRiedel (141315) <Larry@Riedel.org> on Friday October 26, 2007 @10:59PM (#21136879)

      I hope the delay is due to this being its first use [...]

      I think that particular plane is a NASA research asset, not part of some standard emergency response plan, and was not presumed to be deployed for that particular situation at all.

      It's a little late to get maximum benefit from something like this

      Maybe not maximum benefit, but I imagine the thermal sensors could be very valuable on Wednesday for places where it was not easy to tell visually where exactly fires were.

      Larry

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by timeOday (582209)
        I'm surprised weather satellites can't provide any information needed for firefighting?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ncc74656 (45571) *

          I'm surprised weather satellites can't provide any information needed for firefighting?

          Weather satellites orbit at over 22000 miles away. UAVs can fly at an altitude closer to 22000 feet (or less). They can see things in much greater detail than satellites in geostationary orbit.

          • by timeOday (582209)
            It's not the case [hearsat.org] that all weather satellites are in geostationary orbit.

            Anyways, the question isn't whether UAVs can provide more detail than satellites, but rather, whether firefighting requires more detail than existing satellite imagery can provide. (It's not as if you want 1m resolution for firefighting). Apparently there is some extra value in the UAV data, I'm just curious what it is.

  • I mean come on is it really that hard to come up with a unique looking design?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dr. Eggman (932300)
      Maybe not, but it certainly isn't cheap to.
    • by Neo Quietus (1102313) on Friday October 26, 2007 @10:14PM (#21136583)
      Because it IS a Predator-B. From the first link: "A Predator B unmanned aerial system has been acquired by NASA's Dryden Flight Re-search Center to support Earth science missions and advanced aeronautical technology development. The aircraft, named Ikhana..." I know, reading the articles, I must be new here.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hitmark (640295)
        yet again a military system gets turned into something that can be used in times of peace.

        i wonder, can this thing deal with bad weather? as in ocean storms and massive icing?

        if so it could potentially be used for search and rescue out at sea, and i would guess that 5-6 of these are cheaper then 5-6 rescue helicopters.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by bcmm (768152)
          I assume a Black Hawk is very much at the expensive end of SAR choppers. They cost $6M each, in the standard US Army configuration (which is assault rather than SAR). A MQ-9 Reaper such as the Ikhana costs $8M, and can't actually pick people up.
        • Predators are known for not doing so well during bad weather. A large number of them have crashed actually. That is a big reason why using unmanned airplanes in US airspace has been getting a lot of bad press lately. One crashed in southern Arizona last year during a border search. I think it was just a few miles from some homes.
        • by X0563511 (793323)
          No need, http://www.ga-asi.com/products/mariner.php [ga-asi.com]

          The same company has something specifically for maritime surveillance.
          • by hitmark (640295)
            interesting. but it seems to be aimed at replacing the P-3 orion or JSTARS, not SAR helicopters.

            can it find a single person in heavy seas?
      • by barocco (1168573)
        By speaking out with a de-facto RTFA comment, you have now acquired the level "Old_Noiseus" :)
  • NASA waste (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday October 26, 2007 @10:24PM (#21136651) Homepage Journal
    Can we please de-fund NASA and start spending that money on something with real immediate benefits to the folks here on Earth?

    Oh, wait...
    • by msauve (701917)

      Able to remain aloft for up to 30 continuous hours Ikhana serves up information in minutes, a process that takes hours when done by manned aircraft observation.
      Hours? Minutes? So what, the fires have been burning for a week.

      The article is clearly someone trying to justify their living off the public dole.
      • I don't think that's an issue. I think the point was to provide up-to-the-minute data. Getting a constant stream of data that is a minute old vs an hour old can be very beneficial in being able to fight the fires, I think it can make a huge difference.
    • by DAldredge (2353)
      I vote for more spending for Pickles!
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      Can we please de-fund NASA and start spending that money on something with real immediate benefits to the folks here on Earth?

      Oh, wait...
      Here's a thought. Can we please de-fund NASA's Mars-mission nonsense and start spending that money on something with real immediate benefits to the folks here on Earth?
  • by mduell (72367) on Friday October 26, 2007 @10:51PM (#21136833)
  • by jerryasher (151512) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @12:26AM (#21137341)
    Predator at Edwards [google.com] It's sitting next to a B-1. If you scroll around you can find three V-22s, 2 747 Shuttle Carriers, 2 more B-1s, an SR-71 [google.com], 3 B-52s, a Flying Boxcar [google.com], several warbirds, lots of jets and helicopters and three mechas, mostly disassembled and buried in the sand.

    I've started at image for two days, but where's Waldo (pepper)?
  • data delivery (Score:2, Interesting)

    by swell (195815)

    quote "... for a 10 hour mission to observe forest fires in California, scanning the terrain from 23-25,000 feet using a variety of sensors for visible and IR light. Able to remain aloft for up to 30 continuous hours ..."

    So what did it do for the remaining 20 hours? A beer run?

    Displaced SoCal citizens could have used that data, we could still use it today (Saturday).

    The good news is that the data wasn't entirely restricted to emergency personnel- you and I can see some of the GISified fire data here (pdf):
    h [sdcountyemergency.com]
    • quote "... for a 10 hour mission to observe forest fires in California, scanning the terrain from 23-25,000 feet using a variety of sensors for visible and IR light. Able to remain aloft for up to 30 continuous hours ..."

      So what did it do for the remaining 20 hours? A beer run?

      It wasn't aloft for thirty hours, it was aloft for ten. It is "capable of remaining aloft for thirty hours" not it "was aloft for thirty hours". Reading comprehension FTW.

      Displaced SoCal citizens could have

  • I've seen alot of eucalyptus tress in California which are native to Australia, and it looks to me like Californian's are experiencing what Australian bushfires are like. They're great trees but when they get hot you can notice a blue like haze from their flamable sap, like a gas around the tree. They burn so that their seed pods can spread without competing flora, they also drop alot of dry leaves and branches and after a few years they turn whatever area they live in into what California is experiencing n

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