Modoc National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
800 W. 12th St
Alturas, CA 96101
Alturas, Calif., Aug. 14, 2017 - The Parker 2 Fire is a milestone in the history of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) used in wildland firefighting. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) not only gave permission for Department of the Interior (DOI) UAS Pilot, Technician, and Wildland Firefighter Steven Stroud to operate his fixed wing UAS inside the TFR (temporary flight restriction) of the Parker 2 Fire, but also issued a Certificate of Authorization allowing him to send his aircraft beyond line of sight. This is the first time the FAA has allowed UAS flight "Beyond Visual Line of Site," or BVLS as it is referred to in FAA standards, for wildland firefighting.
This special permission enabled Stroud to send his UAS out along a pre-programed grid pattern, flying over 19 miles and covering more than 500 acres. The fixed wing UAS was outfitted with a high resolution infrared, computer controlled camera. The camera snapped photos at precise intervals as it flew.
When the UAS returned it to its launch point, Stroud downloaded the images to a computer and used a specialized geographic information system (GIS) program to align and join the hundreds of individual photos to create one, three-dimensional, topographical, infrared map of the 500-acre plot.
The map has an extremely high resolution, and since it is three-dimensional, it can be turned on its axis, allowing the user to zoom in, change the angle of view and see fine detail. The system's infrared sensing capabilities catalog surface temperatures to pin point the location of heat sources.
The 500-acre scan that Steven created took only 34-minutes of flight time. The data he was able to gather in a just over half an hour would have taken a crew of 20 wildland firefighters multiple operational periods to complete by walking the area.
UAS technology has been used by the DOI for wildlife monitoring, geological and geophysical surveys, as well as tracking volcanic activity. Thanks in large part to Steven Stroud's dedication this tool is now available to assist wildland firefighters.