Smokey the Predator

The Air National Guard is working to standardize procedures for getting MQ-1 Predators to rapidly assist officials during natural disasters, said National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Frank Grass. Using California ANG Predators to spot flare-ups and relay communications during last year’s catastrophic Rim Fire “was a game changer,” Grass told members of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel on March 17. Last year, however, “it took three days to get use of the UAVs,” said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) “In a fire that catastrophic that can take a lot of lives, a lot of land, and a lot of money,” he added. As a result, the ANG is working with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Defense Department, and other agencies to streamline the approval process ahead of this next year’s fire season, ANG boss Lt. Gen. Stanley Clarke said. “It would make a big difference if it were a bit faster … I think we can get there,” Clarke added. Predators from the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing at March ARB, Calif., provided both live video and infrared imagery to incident response officials, and communications relay to firefighters on the ground. Since the 163rd RW is a training unit, it has the added benefit of being able to beam unclassified data directly to civilian responders, Clarke said.