Real-time fire imaging program delayed

Stricter FAA regs due to terrorism require slight delay in NASA-Forest Service program.

Terrorism fears have delayed the launch of a joint NASA-Forest Service system to digitally map forest fires, reports. The system, which would deploy real-time maps and imagery of forest fires is being held back to accommodate stricter FAA regulations.

The program uses the Altair unmanned aircraft, an adaptation of the Predator UAV, which has been used on air strikes against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Altair will be loaded with NASA's sensor system, AMS (Autonomous Modular System)-Wildfire. The AMS-Wildfire system can determine temperature differences from 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to as little as half a degree, according to NASA. Being able to distinguish temperatures is important when it comes to mapping the movement of wildfires.

Such data has been available through NASA satellites but under the new system, the data would be transferred to imagery and maps in real time.

For this test mission, the aircraft will be flown over the Western United States, with the data being transferred to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, and also to a chosen incident commander on the ground.