Barbara Selby Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

(Phone: 202/358-1983) Michael Mewhinney Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif. (Phone: 415/604-9000) RELEASE: 94-69

May 4, 1994

ELECTRONIC CHART WILL AID AERIAL FIREFIGHTERS NASA scientists are designing an electronic chart to make flying safer for aerial firefighters who often fly in potentially dangerous conditions above forest fires. The Electronic Chart Display (ECD), being developed at NASA's Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif., shows pilots an area's terrain and obstacles on a computer screen. "Whether alone or with a glass cockpit, the electronic map provides a unique navigational capability and reduces the potential for human error," said Dr. James P. Jenkins, Program Manager for Human Systems Technology in NASA's Office of Aeronautics, Washington, D.C. Several accidents and mid-air near collisions involving aerial firefighters have occurred in recent years. Scientists predict the ECD will increase safety by reducing the need for verbal communication between firefighters and by showing pilots terrain to avoid as well as the location of other nearby aircraft. It also will help aerial commanders direct the assault on fires. "The electronic chart can replace paper charts, pens and rulers and improve the navigational skills of pilots," said Vernol Battiste, Ames principal investigator and a former air traffic controller. "This system improves the navigational capabilities

of anyone flying an airplane." The project has three research goals. The first is to develop a flight environment structure applicable to any forest fire area. This environment will resemble a control zone similar to those used by air traffic controllers to regulate -more-2an airport's takeoffs and landing. The control zone drawn around the fire will show the pilots how to enter and leave the area safely. Another objective is to develop a common language including geographic, aviation and fire related terms. To accomplish this, scientists will study the speech patterns of aerial firefighters during forest fires. The third goal is to integrate and display the flight environment information to the pilot. "To pull all this together, we need a medium to display this information," Battiste said. Scientists are developing a software program jointly with ASINC Inc., Tustin, Calif., and the Bureau of Land Management's Nevada State Office. The electronic chart will use the Global Positioning System (GPS) to determine an aircraft's position and then show it on a map of the area. The GPS consists of 24 satellites orbiting the Earth. Each GPS satellite broadcasts time based on an atomic clock. Pilots use the intervals between satellite transmissions to determine their aircraft's location. Ames project engineer Michael Downs developed the ECD system on a personal computer. The ECD has a 9-inch (22.86 centimeters) color monitor and stores the display's digital map images in its memory system. The ECD has many other potential uses. "The electronic chart display is useful in any environment where people have to navigate," Battiste said. "In an automobile, it could align you with the road and display the route from your departure to your

destination on the screen," he said. "This type of system will revolutionize travel," Battiste said. "With an electronic chart display, you won't need a paper map in your car. This is going to change the way we drive and the way we fly." -end-