Calif. Launches Drone to Scout for Spot Fires

GROVELAND, Calif. (AP) -

As firefighters make progress containing a raging wildfire in and near Yosemite National Park, officials have turned to unmanned aircraft to search for unexpected developments.

The California National Guard launched a drone Wednesday in an effort to get an early bead on spot blazes.

Incident commander Mike Wilkins said Wednesday that the unmanned MQ-1 aircraft already is giving ground-based crews a birds-eye view of new developments.

“Already this morning it’s allowed us to see a spot fire we wouldn’t have seen,” he said.

A similar unmanned NASA aircraft has been used for fire surveys in past years.

The drone took off from the Victorville Airport in Southern California and generally flew over unpopulated areas on its 300-mile flight. While outside of the fire area it will be escorted by a manned aircraft.

Officials were careful to point out images are being used only to aid in the effort to contain the Rim Fire burning in the western Sierra Nevada.