The U.S. Forest Service intends to contract for 7 and later up to 15 aircraft outfitted with high-tech sensors to serve as platforms for aerial supervision on wildfires. Today the agency issued a Request for Information to find out what is available and which companies may be interested. The aircraft would not only be able to conduct aerial supervision of other firefighting assets, but would also provide a platform for training of aerial supervision personnel. This will require an aft crew station that provides the capability to manage aerial supervision operations in its entirety. The airplanes would be able to carry one pilot, an aerial supervisor, a trainee aerial supervisor, and an instructor.
Two of the seven aircraft would be able to support day and night operations and would be located at Lancaster, California, and McCall Idaho.
Some of the hardware the aircraft must have would include:
- Infrared/Electro-Optical sensing systems with color camera and FLIR systems. The ability to manually “select” an area of interest upon which the system will autonomously (without user input) remain pointed at that area as the aircraft maneuvers.
- The ability of the system to provide and display target location (latitude, longitude, altitude). If laser is used, it must be eye safe. The ability to provide a visible (within the visible light spectrum, with and without the aid of NVG’s) marking capability of a target that can be viewed by other aircraft within 1 mile and at off-axis viewing angles at night.
- The ability to auto-detect non-participant aircraft.
- Data link dissemination for near or near real-time video image viewing and analysis.
- Track ground force and air force position location. Data entry to assign naming/labeling/text convention to ground and air forces engaged on the fire.
The Forest Service might be looking for aircraft similar to the Aero Commander 690A that is being used with their night flying helicopter.
The Request for Information has a response due date of September 13, 2013. They expect to publish the solicitation by October, 2013 for an anticipated contract award in February 2014.