The inaugural launch of a system to map wildfire movement in real time has been postponed...again.
The joint mission between NASA and U.S. Forest Service has been rescheduled (for the second time) until Sept. 12 due in part to a lack of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to Vincent Ambrosia, the principal investigator of the Western States Unmanned Aerial System Fire Mission at NASA's Ames Research Center. FAA approval is required because the system includes the use of the unmanned Altair aircraft.
"Due to some 'open issues' on mission profiling and delays in receiving the COA (Certificate of Authorization) from FAA, we have delayed the planned launch of the Altair on the Western States UAS Fire Mission," Ambrosia said in an e-mail.
FAA approval has been an issue for the project because of understandable heightened aviation security due to terrorist concerns, according to Ambrosia.
"Although this is frustrating, the entire team sees these issues as important steps in showcasing innovative uses of UASs (unmanned Aerial Systems) in the NAS (NASA Advanced Supercomputing), and is prepared to fulfill the mission objectives with the FAA this year, facilitating science missions during the mid-summer of 2007 over wildfires," he said.
The project, once it launches, would provide real-time data, imagery and maps of wildfire movement to select groups of U.S. Forest Service firefighters on the ground.