ackthpt writes "Discovery News has a nifty article on NASA's Ikhana drone. Ikhana designed for suborbital earth sciences missions, may be fitted out with a variety of sensors, the same as deployed on satellites to study atmospheric conditions up close. Wednesday, Ikhana took off from Edwards Air Force Base for a 10 hour mission to observe forest fires, 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 without break and view during night, Ikhana serves up information in minutes, which required hours 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." Now how cool is that?"