General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has announced that its Predator B/MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) has been used by the California Air National Guard (CA ANG) to gain critical real-time reconnaissance for firefighting operations performed by California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) in Southern California.
The MQ-9 UAS (unmanned aerial system) uses GA-ASI’s Lynx Multi-mode Radar with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to detect fire lines even through smoke-filled skies. The Multi-Spectral Targeting System provides the aircraft’s Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) cameras with live high-definition color and infrared video feeds to ground command posts. This 24/7 real-time imaging capability provides vital critical situational awareness to both ground and air fire suppression operations. This aerial reconnaissance for firefighting missions is routinely performed by CA ANG’s 163rd Attack Wing, based at March Air Reserve Base (ARB) in Riverside, California, and operates throughout Southern and Central California.
A joint backup plan has been put in place by CA ANG, the United States Air Force (USAF) and GA-ASI to launch and recover the MQ-9 UAVs when takeoff or landing at March ARB is not feasible due to operational constraints, such as weather. This plan has been recently utilised duing a reconnaissance support mission for CAL FIRE, when Santa Ana winds prevented recovery of the 163rd Air Attack Wing’s MQ-9. GA-ASI ground crew members, in partnership with on-site USAF aircrew at General Atomics’ Gray Butte Flight Test Facility, recovered, serviced and refueled the UAV, then re-launched it. This allowed the CA ANG MQ-9 to resume its fire support mission, minimizing a gap in coverage.
Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI, commented: “Providing support for natural disasters is just one more way to utilize our aircraft,” said “GA-ASI is always pleased to know our products can and will assist when these kinds of situations occur.”