Predator drone test flights to start today

first_imgPilots from NASA and Ikhana manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. operate the aircraft from a ground control station at the Dryden Flight Research Center. The aircraft is owned by NASA. The flights will continue through September. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE – An unmanned Predator B aircraft with a sensor that can pierce heavy smoke to aid in mapping the course of a wildfire will take off today from Edwards Air Force Base as part of a series of test flights. The operation, a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Forest Service, can collect data continuously for up to 24 hours. Today’s flight, controlled from Edwards, will take the craft to Idaho and is expected to last about 20 hours, according to a NASA statement. The aircraft is a scientifically focused version of the already-proven Predator technology, complete with a sensor that can detect temperature differences from less than one-half degree to about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Detailed thermal imagery of wildfires can be sent real-time anywhere in the world through a satellite data link. NASA calls its version of the aircraft “Ikhana,” a name derived from a Native American Choctaw word that means intelligent, conscious or aware. The Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards completed a six-month process to obtain a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA allowing Ikhana to fly wildfire-sensing missions in the national air space of the western states. During the first flight — which occurred Aug. 16 — the propeller- powered Predator took images of the Zaca Fire in Santa Barbara County and other blazes in the state. The aircraft flew more than 1,200 miles in a 10-hour period. “The images from the flight demonstrated that this technology has a future in helping us fight wildland fires,” stated Zaca incident commander Mike Dietrich. “We could see little on the ground since the fire was generating a lot of smoke and burning in a very remote and inaccessible area.” He said the technology “captured images through the smoke and provided real time information on what the fire was doing.” last_img read more

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