This Drone Is Searching For Tiny Wildfires Before They Blow Up

Flying over the Great Dismal Swamp, these UAVs will work day and night to catch fires before they become front-page news.

When lightning struck a patch of the Great Dismal Swamp on the border of North Carolina and Virginia in 2011, it sparked a fire that would rage three months long and claim more than 6,000 acres of protected wildlife territory. Michael Logan, the head of NASA Langley’s unmanned aerial vehicle lab, lived nearby. At times, the smoke that choked his neighborhood was so thick he couldn’t see two blocks in front of him.

But the late summer wildfire also made him think. NASA satellites only picked up on the fire four days after it started, after the strike ignited a tract of dead leaves and grass from a previous fire and whipped the flames into a frenzy. What if NASA could design low-flying drones to pick up signals of wildfire before the satellites had a chance?


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28 October 2014