November 19, 2009: Ikhana MQ-9 Unmanned Vehicle Testing

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

With an infrared sensor pod slung under its left wing, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) remotely piloted Predator B aircraft, the “Ikhana,” conducted post-burn assessments of two Southern California wildfire sites – the Piute Fire in Kern County and the Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest. The unmanned air vehicle completed the seven-hour imaging flight from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB. The aircraft flew several data collection paths over the area burned by the month-long Piute Fire that grew to more than 37,000 acres before it was contained in July 2008 and. over the arson-caused Station Fire, which burned more than 160,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest northeast of Los Angeles since 26 August 2009.

During the Fire Missions, the aircraft carried the AMS in a wing-mounted pod. The AMS was capable of peering through thick smoke and haze to record hot spots and the progression of wildfires during a lengthy period. The data gathered was overlaid on Google Earth maps, downlinked in near-real time to the Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, and made available to fire incident commanders to assist in allocating firefighting resources.

In 2014, in partnership with multiple organizations, Ikhana deployed to Hawaii to demonstrate the capabilities of this type of UAS for scientific and environmental data collection missions over the Papahãnaumokuãkea Marine National Monument (“the Monument”). The aircraft collected scientific and environmental data during two flights totaling more than 19 hours over northwest areas of the island state. NASA worked with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to perform surveys of monk seals, sea turtles, sea birds and vegetation. Sensors on the aircraft also searched for marine debris over the Monument.

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