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Forest Service gets help from RIT researchers

The U.S. Forest Service soon will have a new tool to identify and locate wildfires as small as 8 inches in diameter from 10,000 feet altitude. Scientists at RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science are creating a prototype of this remote sensing system with $1.4 million from NASA.

RIT imaging scientists Donald McKeown, left, and Michael Richardson examine a sensor system that RIT is designing for the U.S. Forest Service.

The project, known as the Wildfire Airborne Sensor Program (WASP), is an extension of the Forest Fires Imaging Experimental research initiative begun two years ago. It was made possible through the efforts of Congressman Jim Walsh, chair of the House VA/HUD Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, who has provided nearly $8 million over four years to support this research.

WASP will combine infrared and visible light cameras with a geographic positioning system, along with software to operate the cameras and collect and interpret the data.

“We’ll be able to correlate every pixel and every image to a place on the ground, longitude and latitude, so we can go from an image to a map,” says project co-director Donald McKeown, who is also director of RIT’s Laboratory for Imaging Algorithms and Systems, where WASP research takes place.

WASP was the subject of a May 8 report in The New York Times. To read that story, go to www.RIT.edu/news and click on “RIT in the News.”