The firefighting branch of the US Forest Service is now using Google Earth to improve situational awareness when they have aircraft deployed in firefighting operations in remote forests. According to Government Computer News:
Linda Naill, an aircraft dispatcher at the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center in Minden, Nev., said she mostly uses the Google version in her job managing up to 20 aircraft at a time from the facility, which oversees 11.5 million acres.
“The neat thing about Google Earth is they’re three-dimensional,” Naill said. “When I put a [temporary flight restriction] in place, I can really see if I’m impacting someone, and if someone violates it, we can easily figure that out.”
There is no doubt Google Earth would prove very useful in this situation. GE’s intuitive interface, 3D terrain, satellite/aerial photography and ability to use the network link to bring in real-time data would make it an excellent visualization tool. The Forest Service is conducting a trial to track other assets, such as ground equipment – even individual firefighters – and expects to begin implementation next year. The group responsible for deploying the tools are now working with NOAA who uses it for tracking animal-survey aircraft and Antarctica-bound ships. Other agencies that rely heavily on high-value mobile assets and first responders also are possible users of the system. via AvWeb