June 13, 2006 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will find their way into many peacetime roles over the coming decade, and the role of monitoring forest fires is almost certain to be one of them. Last week a group of 70 government observers gathered to observe and assess the capabilities of UAVs in a live fire monitoring application at the USDA Forest Service/NASA UAV Demo at Fort Hunter Liggett Army Garrison in California. The UAV designated to strut its stuff was an IntelliTech Vector P and the results were excellent. Carrying both standard and thermal infrared video cameras, the Vector P autonomously sought out fires set at locations five miles from the airport and transmitted the video back to the crowd of observers. In all, the Vector P successfully completed four day and night missions over controlled fires set at distant locations on the grounds of the 165,000 acre garrison.
The Vector P system is a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) UAV targeted at applications requiring high performance at low cost and is capable of carrying a wide variety of payloads for up to 6 hours. The Vector P has broad applications, including border patrol, search and rescue, environmental monitoring, and precision agriculture, among many others.
The fires were set by the Garrison Fire Department as part of a program to minimize the risk of runaway wildfires.