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Project Description

This project was funded by the NASA Office of Earth Science to extend the benefits of NASA satellite, sub-orbital, and in-situ data, algorithms, and models to benefit society. For nearly 40 years, NASA has pioneered the use of earth observing satellites to understand the earth as a series of interrelated complex systems. The current constellation of NASA earth observing sensors were carefully designed and managed to answer a series of specific questions about the earth surface and interior, the oceans, and the atmosphere. However, temporal and spatial resolutions requirements sometimes necessitate the development and utility of sub-orbital resources to fill those required data and information gaps. Our project will provide the applications-driven requirements for interfacing the sub-orbital observations of fire with the satellite observations.

Management Approach graphic
Management Approach
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Fire is of interest to the earth science community for three main reasons: 1) it is a major element of land cover change, playing a key role in ecosystem development, 2) fire emissions are a major source of trace gases, aerosols and black carbon into the atmosphere, affecting atmospheric chemistry and physics, 3) fire is a critical process in the global carbon cycle by rapidly transforming sinks into sources of atmospheric gas.
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The US Forest Service (USFS) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have a common interest in evolving new sources of information and knowledge management tools to improve understanding, and wherever necessary, mitigate the effects of wildfires. Past years have seen a rise in both the number and intensity of fires, creating a challenging operational environment. Limited numbers of fire fighters, equipment, and other resources, require precise and accurate information on the need to task these assets in the most efficient manner given current models of fire progression. As these decisions often affect more than trees, but people and property adjacent to National Forests, the need for timely and accurate information is very often a matter of life and death. With the recent major influx of development at the wildland fringe, the necessity for understanding fire behavior and movement is increasingly complex and requires improved, timely information to reduce loss of life, property and resources.

This proposed team effort is focused on the development of full end-to-end research, applications, and technology component demonstrations utilizing piloted and UAV aircraft, advanced sensors, and data distribution technologies to improve information gathering over wildfire disaster events. The rationale for exploring the development of the platform, payload, data telemetry and image enhancement procedures is to greatly increase the timeliness of the data stream for utility in fire mapping, reduce potential risks to pilots and system engineers, and to provide improved and more accurate information on fire conditions than is currently realized. The culmination of these efforts will result in an economic and social benefit to the nation by providing the technology and information mechanisms required to reduce resource, structure personnel loss by providing the capabilities to more rapidly assess accurate fire conditions, and relay that information to appropriate decision-makers. The proposed team will address issues that advance from research and development through applications and testing / validation, to data
dissemination and data integration in a fire decision support mechanism. This full end-to-end program will ensure improved methodologies and support the future development of newer innovative technologies into the disaster-management community. The team proposes to provide the research capacity to develop new innovative crosscutting technologies for wildfire management, to validate these technologies through applications tests, to transfer those concepts, technologies and methodologies to our USFS partner, and to share those solutions within the national wildfire suppression community through the enabling technologies of the World Wide Web.

NASA | Earth Science Division | USDA Forest Service

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