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NASA Research Project Working to Enhance Wildland Firefighting Safety and Operations is Featured on NBC News San Diego
(Apr 30, 2024)
In April, 2024, NASA Human Systems Integration Division researcher Joey Mercer was interviewed by NBC News San Diego. Mr. Mercer is a lead investigator of the Airspace Operations Laboratory (AOL) at NASA Ames Research Center, which is working on a research project called Advanced Capabilities for Emergency Response Operations (ACERO). Building on the groundbreaking work performed under the Scalable Traffic Management for Emergency Response Operations (STEReO) project, the ACERO project is leveraging NASA aeronautics and air traffic management expertise to improve the safety and efficiency of wildland firefighting operations.

San Diego County, like many parts of the United States, has been the site of numerous catastrophic wildfire disasters. When responding to large fires, multiple agencies, organizations and firefighting crews converge to save lives and protect property. In a dynamic, complicated, and dangerous disaster like this, it can be difficult to coordinate emergency activities in a safe, efficient manner, particularly with the manual procedures that exist today. Using new tools, such as unmanned aircraft systems (e.g. drones) and advanced aviation innovations, ACERO researchers are developing new airspace management procedures and technologies to more efficiently share information between crewed aircraft, drone operators, and ground crews during emergency wildfire responses. The tools developed by ACERO will provide emergency responders with better situational awareness to ensure that there are no in-air conflicts with the many aircraft in the disaster area airspace.

The long-term vision of the ACERO program is to advance these new technologies in completely new and novel ways, including potential unmanned firefighting operations. According to Joey, "This big vision we have is uncrewed suppression activities in a wildland fire fighting setting and allowing those suppression activities to continue in low visibility conditions (sic)". Such advances would open up the possibility of 24/7 digitally operated firefighting operations, even in difficult weather conditions, such as dense fog or heavy smoke. Of course, these innovations won't replace traditional firefighting techniques and operations, but they will provide emergency responders with new tools to make their jobs safer and more efficient.

To read the full story, please visit the NBC News San Diego website here- https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/nasa-research-wildfire-fighting/3500019/.
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Last Updated: March 18, 2024