Unmanned aircraft system goes on test flight over Paradise fire

(Last Updated On: August 28, 2015)

The National Park Service announced on its Facebook page on Friday than an unmanned aircraft system, otherwise known as a drone, took a test flight over the Paradise fire at Olympic National Park to gather infrared data.

Here’s the park’s statement from the Facebook page: 

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An operational test of UAS on the Paradise fire at Olympic National Park took place recently. Learn more about the purpose of the flights and check out the footage.

Unmanned Aircraft System was a Success on the Paradise Fire

For the past week an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) was utilized on the Paradise Fire. The system was demonstrating possible applications in wildland fire management and suppression. UAS’s can supplement manned aircraft, especially at times of reduced visibility due to smoky conditions and at night when manned firefighting aircraft may be limited in flying.

The primary goal of the UAS on the Paradise Fire was to gather infrared information. This information assisted fire officials in pinpointing the fires perimeter and identifying areas of intense heat. The extremely large old growth trees in the area of the Paradise Fire create a thick canopy that makes mapping the perimeter and observing hotspots from the air very difficult without infrared capabilities.

This was an operational demonstration provided by Insitu, Inc. with no direct cost to the government. The demonstration was one of a series of ongoing missions to further UAS use on wildland fire in national parks and is part of an interagency strategy for UAS integration into wildland fire support. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) allowed the use of their land for the aircraft launch and recovery site. The purpose of the demonstration was to show the capabilities and effectiveness of unmanned aircraft technology on wildland fires. The ultimate goal for UAS use on wildland fire is to supply incident management teams (IMT) with real-time data products, and information regarding fire size and growth, fire behavior, fuels, and areas of heat concentration. Additional applications, such as search and rescue and animal surveys, may be explored.

As the fire season continues and more wildfires burn throughout the west, manned aviation resources are spread thin across the country and have become very difficult to acquire. In addition to supplementing aerial resources, UAS’s are quieter than manned aircraft, use less fuel, and present a much lower risk to employees.

This was not the first UAS to be flown in the Olympic National Park. The park partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey in 2012 to monitor sediment transport in the Elwha River as part of the Elwha restoration project using a Raven UAS.

The ScanEagle UAS that was flown on the Paradise Fire weighed approximately 50 lbs with a wingspan of 10.2 feet. The UAS was only operated within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) temporary flight restriction (TFR) area. The TFR has been lifted.

7 thoughts on “Unmanned aircraft system goes on test flight over Paradise fire”

  1. nothing new…been done before…
    how about installing IR Turret on Air Attack ships? been done too but that’s more efficient i think. The air attack officer can actually use what he sees and make changes..find hot spots..describe new targets, gives feedbacks after drops, adapt to the situation right here on the spot…while the UAS is just filming..transmits the data to a command center. Good info but …

    I’d rather have an experienced human using this tool right over the fire.

    my 2cts

  2. “In addition to supplementing aerial resources, UAS’s are quieter than manned aircraft, use less fuel, and present a much lower risk to employees.”

    Tanker drones are next?

    1. Tanker drones are a horrible idea. One reason the military has not developed a drone application for heavy platforms is there is a concern about loading such as a B52 with a huge bomb payload and piloting it from thousands of miles away. Data relay times, weather factors, and inability to compensate for a larger air platform are just some of the issues DARPA raised. UAVs where never intended to replace larger airplanes.

  3. Infra red and mapping ops with drones could be done at night for sure..no other aircraft around. So ground and air ops have the updated infos and aircraft could go on at sunrise…and pound it for hours before heat and wind start.

    These drones could also used when very smoky and bad visibility keep aircraft on the ground.
    The main goal is to update the infos to the ground ops.

  4. I personally dont like the idea of using drones to replace human know how. Granted they are flown by a human pilot many miles away but what happens when they start flying without the human at the controls!?!? One reason the military has not taken the human factor out of flying these drones is the technology is a catch 22. It can be a great tool yet dangerous if left to its own rudimentary programing. According to experts we are about 50 years until programs become self aware.

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