7_9 Earth Imaging Broadcast (California Fires, Drone Mayhem and More)

Hello, and welcome to this Earth Imaging-themed GeoSpatial Stream. I’m your host, Todd Danielson, and today’s Lead Sponsor is Esri’s Geodesign Summit.

Today’s Top Story is California’s Lake Fire, which started burning in the northern portion of the San Gorgonio Wilderness, part of the San Bernardino Mountains, on June 17, 2015.

To date, it has burned more than 31,000 acres, but is 98 percent contained. The usual suspects have been cited as spurring the fire, including drought, a lot of fuel on the ground, and high temperatures and winds.

As far as Earth Imaging, the fire makes the lead story for a couple of reasons. First are these beautiful images taken from space. This is a natural-color satellite image from NASA’s MODIS instrument aboard the Terra satellite.

And here’s a false-color image from NASA’s Advanced Land Imager aboard the Earth Observing 1 satellite.

But another aspect of the story was some really unfortunate amateur drone use. Airplanes with more than 10,000 gallons of fire retardant set to drop on the blaze had to turn back due to a hobby drone illegally flying above the fire zone, with an estimated cost of $15,000 dollars as well as time lost fighting the fire.

According to Mike Eaton, forest aviation officer with the U.S. Forest Service, “The fire certainly grew because we weren’t able to drop the retardant. We had to shut down subsequent missions that could have possibly contained the fire.”

I’ll share my thoughts on this subject later in the broadcast.

That was today’s Top Story. I’ll be back with more news after this interview clip from Esri’s Geodesign Summit.

NASA is working toward technologies that could help avoid problems with drones clogging up the airspace. NASA’s Ikhana Unmanned Aircraft System is being used to test and validate sense-and-avoid systems that could allow for routine drone flights over U.S. airspace. The concept is to equip drones and manned aircraft with sensors that will detect each other and ensure the drone gets out of the way.

In unsurprising news, NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites show that human consumption is rapidly draining some of the world largest groundwater basins. The satellite sensors measure dips and bumps in Earth’s gravity, which is affected by the weight of water underground.

And here’s a video clip of Ian Roach from Geoscience Australia talking about the benefits of using airborne electromagnetic survey data:

In industry headlines, Orbit Logic announced that its SpyMeSat mobile app version 3.0 is available on iTunes and Google Play, allowing smartphone users to task a high-resolution imaging satellite to take a picture of a user-specified location.

4D Mapper released its namesake service, which uses cloud processing to store, deliver, visualize and share large datasets entirely through a Web browser.

And a new Lockheed Martin Center near Denver, the RF Payload Center of Excellence, will focus on developing reconfigurable payloads and advancing satellite systems.

For today’s Final Thought, I wanted to discuss the drone flying over the Lake Fire in California. Come on, people! As parents sometimes say, this is why you can’t have nice things, or access to U.S. airspace.

UAS companies, pilots and hobbyists all complain about the U.S. policy limiting drones and how it’s holding back business, but then some yahoo flies their drone over a serious forest fire, somehow unaware or uncaring that large firefighting aircraft might want to help stop that fire, and perhaps a drone smashing into its engine would be a bad thing.

There are many cool, useful and important applications that UASs can help with, and you can learn about many of them by visiting the Earth Imaging Journal Web site or subscribing to its print magazine, but all of that will go away if one drone takes out a commercial flight or something similarly catastrophic.

So please, if you are a UAS pilot, think carefully before you fly. If you need a picture of a forest fire, take a selfie. At least that way, the only life you’re endangering is your own.

That’s it for this broadcast, but if you’d like to receive alerts when new GeoSpatial Stream videos are released, or sign up for additional V1 Media newsletters, please visit this Web site and register:


I’m Todd Danielson, and this … was your GeoSpatial Stream.