RIT Scientists Will Demonstrate Wildfire Airborne Sensor, Aug. 19

Plane will fly over controlled burn in Spencerport

Scientists at Rochester Institute of Technology will demonstrate their new wildfire-detection sensor research for the U.S. Forest Service with a flight test over a controlled fire on Tuesday, Aug. 19, in Spencerport, weather permitting.

Members of the media are invited to attend the demonstration and should arrive at the test area on West Avenue at 10 a.m., Aug. 19. (See attached map for details.) The scheduled flight will take place at 10:30 a.m. Immediately following the flyover, the media can see the plane and sensor system up close at the small craft hangar at Piedmont Hawthorne at 1265 Scottsville Rd. until 1 p.m.

RIT’s Wildfire Airborne Sensor Program (WASP) is a prototype sensor system that can identify and locate wildfires as small as 8 inches in diameter from 10,000 feet altitude. Distinguished researchers Donald McKeown and Michael Richardson in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science have built the prototype for trial by the Forest Service system as part of phase one of WASP, funded by $1.4 million from NASA. The sensor is mounted into a modified Piper Aztec aircraft.

The sensor system will enable the Forest Service to reliably detect fires with low false alarms even under bright sunlight, which normally reduces the effectiveness of current fire-detection systems.

WASP research at RIT 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 through the NASA budget over four years to support this research at RIT.

The WASP program is an extension of the Forest Fires Imaging Experimental System research initiative that provided the research foundation for the sensor device being developed through WASP.

The system combines a total of four infrared and high-resolution mapping cameras that sweep across the line of flight, taking a series of individual images. Each camera images a different spectral band: three infrared cameras from Indigo Systems Inc. detect fires by detecting heat energy in the short-wave, mid-wave and long-wave bands of the electromagnetic spectrum; a high-resolution digital camera from local company Pixel Physics maps the terrain in the visible spectrum.

Phase two of the WASP project, beginning this fall, will add automated software to assemble the imagery together with digital mapping information and provide a new data product for fire fighters in the field.

For more information, contact Susan Gawlowicz at 585-475-5061 or smmuns@rit.edu.


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