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Infrared has long been heralded as a breakthrough Human Aiding Technology (HAT) for aerial fire fighters. Historically IR installations were physically large, costing $100,000+ per plane and required a trained operator. Recently some IR products have come down to $15-50,000 plus installation. Now, good quality IR cameras can be purchased for $2,495. Installation is quick and FAA approval paperwork (337 field form) is simple. In-flight special operators (third person) are not needed, and without any training, ATGS/Pilot usage is functional on first exposure during live missions. Systems are automatic and intuitive – turning on and off with the airplane’s master switch. The ATGS and pilot need only glance at a screen already aligned with the normal out the window vision. The same unit can also record continuous movies or takes snapshots for immediate transmission to fire fighters below, IC leaders and the GIS team.

IR is the easiest for most firefighters to understand. Due to their small size, IR cameras can now be easily mounted with clear air vision. A good quality camera, such as the FLIR EVSx, will mount behind a normal inspection panel drilled with a quarter sized hole. This $2,500 camera resides inside the plane away from the wind & elements, yet has a clear air view. The fix mount is aligned to look the same direction an Air Attack looks through the right window – perpendicular to flight, slightly down and forward of the right wing. This is called SLIR – Side Looking InfraRed.

Camera power is wired through a power converter or 24 volt stabilizer to the aircraft system, and the whole system turns on and off with the aircraft’s primary master switch or avionics master switch. A 7 inch cockpit display is mounted where the control panel meets the right side of the plane. The display is easily viewed by both the pilot and ATGS, and does not block the pilot’s view to any instruments, nor the outside view. Although the display is mounted to the right of the ATGS, it still falls into the natural scan for pilots who regularly look right to see the fire and what the ATGS is doing. The display can simply be a headrest Television screen sold commonly at $100 for cars, or a 7-10 inch computer monitor.