James A. Brass, Vincent Ambrosia, James Allen Robert Higgins1, Edward Hildum2,

Image of AIRDAS instrument A low-cost, flexible multispectral scanner was built by NASA-Ames and the US Forest Service under a cooperative program. The scanner was built primarily from a research need of understanding and measuring the impacts of fire on ecosystem and atmospheric processes; however, it also has application in disaster monitoring and assessment.

Digital infrared scanning systems have been used to "look" at fires since the early 1970s. These systems have shown major flaws in their ability to characterize flame temperature and fire intensity. Problems in saturation of the sensor and in calibration at high temperatures still exist, negating any quantifiable measurements of flame characteristics or fire energy release, important factors in fire impacts on ecosystem dynamics and trace gas production.

The scanning system currently developed has four important attributes:

1) the ability to fly on multiple aircraft;

2) quantifiable, unsaturated data from active fires;

3) high temperature calibration to accurately measure flame temperature; and

4) telemetry compatible for real time analysis.

The advantages of this system fall into two general categories. From a research standpoint, this system produces unique data sets discriminating flaming from superheated soils and quantifying fire intensity or amount of energy being produced by the fire. These measurements were difficult to make prior to the development of this scanner and are critically important in modeling the impacts of fire on the biosphere.

Image of fires in Brazil

Secondly, this scanning system can be used to support disaster management and assessment. The high resolution optical system coupled with the four detector array allows high resolution visible and infrared products to be produced for fire detection, landslide assessment, earthquake damage and pollution monitoring. This system, supported by a multi-agency team from NASA-Ames, U.S. Forest Service and Brazil's resource agency completed the second major mission in Brazil. Flying in a Lear jet aircraft over much of the tropics and savannas of Brazil, the system collected data over 100 major wildfires and provided a unique data set that characterized flaming front and fire intensity. Coupled with trace gas measurements from other instruments on board the aircraft, one of the most complete data sets of fire impacts in Brazil was collected.

AIRDAS was used to fly wildfires in southern California to map active fire fronts and hot spots. In addition, a fuel inventory of southern California chaparral ecosystems has been initiated. AIRDAS will provide the raw data needed to classify and determine the health of the vegetation in the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains of southern California.

AIRDAS was also used to monitor flooding in California's central valley.

Program office: NASA Ames Research Center and U.S. Forest Service

1 Simco Electronics
2 Sverdrup

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