The California Air National Guard (ANG) is using MQ-9 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in support of CAL FIRE’s firefighting efforts in Northern California.
The aircraft is operated by the California ANG’s 163d Attack Wing operating out of March Air Reserve Base.
MQ-9 is equipped with full-motion video (optical and infra-red) and ground imaging Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) capability. SAR is able to see clearly though both clouds and smoke.
“The 163d Attack Wing supports citizens during the fires by operating two missions under approval from the Secretary of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration,” said Brigadier General Dana A. Hessheimer. “The two missions are to help fire crews assess fire perimeters and to identify structures that have been lost. Through the efforts of our response team, 77,000 acres have been mapped and more than 1,300 structures have been identified.”
The intelligence and reconnaissance sensor suite on the MQ-9 includes the Lynx multi-mode radar and Electro-optical/Infra-red (EO/IR) high-definition camera. This type of support is critical to providing firefighters on the ground with situational awareness that assists with both the strategic planning and resource placement that is essential to containing the fire in Northern California.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), manufacturer of the MQ-9, is also working with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) and CAL FIRE to facilitate integration of real-time data into fire-fighting operations.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is the State of California’s agency responsible for fire protection in State Responsibility Areas of California totaling 31 million acres, as well as the administration of the state’s private and public forests.
It is the largest full service all risk fire department in the Western United States and operates more fire stations year round than the New York (FDNY), Los Angeles (LAFD), and Chicago (CFD) fire departments combined. It is also the second largest municipal fire department in the United States, behind only the FDNY.