Between the Dixie, Caldor, McCash, and Windy fires, Northern California has been witnessing a busy wildfire season. And this time, the firefighters on the ground are being shadowed by a crew from NASA. Their aim? To watch and learn how drones help to battle the blazes from above.

NASA’s Joey Mercer and his teammates are designing software and communication tools to help first responders work more safely and efficiently. One of the things being considered as part of the Scalable Traffic Management for Emergency Response Operations (STEReO) project is how the use of drones can be scaled up.

Drones capture heat signature of wildfires

Since thermal imagery obtained by drones can help determine where fire-containment lines should be established, the STEReO team wants to make aerial firefighting as useful as possible. Mercer explains:

The smarter we are about their operations, the smarter capabilities we can create. [Firefighters] are running operations at…