The name Ikhana is a native American word that means "intelligence". It is really just a MQ-9 Predator B Reaper, except the payload does not include missiles or bombs, but scientific equipments (mostly additional sensors, such as thermal sensors) used to help see through heavy smokes from wild fires. Instead of killing people, the Predator UAV is used to save lives, lives of firefighters or local residents affected by wild fires.
Talking about fire-fighting, there were two big fires, the "Station Fire" and the "Guiberson Fire", near Los Angeles in the last California fire season. These two fires were very close to local residence and damaged and threatened many houses and properties. Ikhana was used for data collection in the Station Fire. Although the Ikhana UAV was not used in the Guiberson fire, I was fortunately enough to be part of a NASA team (as a continuation of my summer internship with NASA) and actually flew to LA and participated the fire-fighting, working on another NASA project in support of the fire fighters to better collect information. This project is called GeoCam, and it is the topic of another blog post in the near future.
Picture of the Day:
Here's me videotaping a user from the US Forest Service using an android phone (running our GeoCam client software) to take picture of a live fire at the Guiberson Fire, and he took a picture of me instead. The other person in the picture is the technical manager of the project, a NASA scientist.