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Insitu demos UAV/GIS system for fighting wildfires

October 9, 2017  - By

Following successful test flights, Insitu’s ScanEagle helps combat Oregon wildfire.

UAV company Insitu and Esri have successfully completed test flights on a new way to support firefighting efforts using software for firefighters and first responders.

The flights were held at the Warm Springs Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Test Range in Oregon. The test site is a Pan Pacific FAA UAS Test Site for commercial UAS testing. The national FAA test site program facilitates the UAS industry in meeting strict customer needs and qualifications.

Insitu is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company.

A week after successfully completing customer acceptance test flights, Insitu, which has more than one million operational UAS flight hours, deployed its INEXA Solutions professional aerial remote sensing teams to aid firefighters in suppressing the Eagle Creek fire in Oregon.

Onlookers watch the fire burn in the Columbia Gorge on Sept. 4. (Photo: U.S. Forest Service)

Onlookers watch the fire burn in the Columbia Gorge on Sept. 4. The fire is now contained. (Photo: U.S. Forest Service)

Collaborating with customers to identify business challenges, INEXA Solutions professionals use a continually expanding suite of capabilities such as INEXA Control (ground-based command and control), INEXA Cloud, INEXA manned and unmanned air vehicles including ScanEagle, and INEXA sensors and analytics to provide custom solutions and answers to mitigate business challenges from seabed to space.

Coordinating with the Oregon Department of Forestry and other governing entities, Insitu’s ScanEagle system provided optimal, near real-time data for firefighters and first responders, resulting in heightened emergency response efforts, increased situational awareness and safety, and supported planning and resource allocation.

Equipped with electro-optical (EO) for daylight and infrared (IR) video for nighttime flights, along with mid-wave sensors, the ScanEagle surveyed fire lines at night over the Eagle Creek wildfire, which had spread to nearly 49,000 acres throughout the Columbia River Gorge region.

The ScanEagle can supplement manned firefighting fleets by operating during dense smoke and at night, when manned aircraft typically cannot fly. Infrared camera technology can penetrate smoke and gather and disseminate georeferenced still images of points of interest. These images allow geographic information system (GIS) specialists to perform analysis using Esri’s ArcGIS software.

“Throughout the difficult Eagle Creek wildfire, our thoughts have been with our friends and neighbors impacted by this unfortunate event,” said Mark Bauman, vice president and co-general manager, Insitu Commercial. “We stand prepared to assist local authorities with ongoing operations in any way we can, and we extend our gratitude to all of those working hard to contain the fire.”

ScanEagle poised for launch at Eagle Creek, Oregon, fire.

ScanEagle poised for launch at Eagle Creek, Oregon, fire.

As the sole aviation overwatch within the temporary flight restriction, the ScanEagle provided persistent nighttime oversight and monitored the progression of the fire. Insitu coordinated manned and unmanned aviation assets and through data collection, analysis and integration capabilities, produced near real-time georeferenced spatial data (maps tied to specific known locations).

In this way, incident commanders, firefighters, and first responders had data that delivered updated incident perimeter maps, identified spot fires, located fire lines and hotspots, and provided near real-time video feed and still images of critical infrastructure, historical structures and more.

“Prior to pursuing any new effort, we consider the reasons we exist as a company — we call it our ‘why,’ explains Jon Damush, Insitu’s chief growth officer. “Insitu’s ‘why’ is to pioneer and innovate in all that we do to positively impact people’s lives and change the course of history,” he continues. “This statement guides our actions and investments, and is precisely why we are doing the things we are doing to help those in need with our unique technologies and professional approach to aviation.”

(Based on an Insitu press release)