May 30, 2005

Fire Exercise Allows HPWREN to Work with CDF and San Diego Sheriff's Department for Airdrop-Based Network Relay Installation Demonstration

With the summer fire season fast approaching, multiple agencies recently teamed for a Wildland Readiness Exercise at Lake Hodges. Among the activities were helicopter water drops, hose lay, shelter deployment, dozer operations, and incident support. The air drops involved helicopters of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the San Diego Sheriff's Department, and the US Navy in a joint operation. The primary objective of the HPWREN participation was to practice a helicopter-based deployment of an ad-hoc data communications relay site.

This activity was part of the ongoing collaboration between HPWREN and the CDF. A significant planning meeting with the exercise leadership took place at the CDF air base in Ramona a week prior to the event.

Mt. Woodson
relay equipment preparation
Network connection at the Mt. Woodson HPWREN backbone site HPWREN team is preparing the relay equipment for the air drop

Prior to the exercise, the first implementation step included equipment installation at the Mt. Woodson HPWREN backbone site, to support communications with the Lake Hodges location. On May 23rd, the team consisting of HPWREN staff, SDSU Field Station Programs collaborators and a volunteer prepared the equipment to be airlifted by a San Diego Sheriff's Department helicopter to the relay site.

site survey
Sheriff's Department helicopter surveys the installation location Helicopter at the deployment site, after dropping off HPWREN team members for the installation

Installing the equipment was preceded by an aerial survey of the deployment site, to determine the exact location, followed by dropping off team members on the hilltop. The landing site was a narrow trail near the lake.

equipment pickup

Above: At the site of the fire exercise, the helicopter is used to pick up the equipment

Right: The equipment is airlifted to the relay site

equipment drop

With some members of the HPWREN team already on the hilltop, others participated in the preparation for the airlift itself. When the equipment arrived at the deployment site, CDF staff guided the helicopter's approach, as well as a tag line for the cargo.

relay site fire sensor
The fully installed ad-hoc relay site Connected CDF Mobile Communications Center and fire sensor demonstration

The fully installed ad-hoc relay site included the radio equipment, a 10Hz 3D sonic anemometer, and a 360 degree three megapixel digital network camera. The relay provided the connection between the Mt. Woodson HPWREN site and the CDF Emergency Operations Support Mobile Communications Center at the exercise location, and was demonstrated to various agency staff.

In addition, the SDSU FSP staff demonstrated a real-time fire sensor which triggers on fire incidents, and is able to distribute event and azimuth information based on ten degree sectors. More information about this activity can be found in SDSU's fire sensor summary and at the Field Station Programs web site.

The hilltop-deployed 360 degree camera at the relay site became a tool to easily and quickly observe the surroundings in a single image. 360 degree camera

With a successful deployment on May 23, the equipment was left in place overnight, with an extraction plan for May 24.

equipment extraction equipment arrival

Left: The next day the Sheriff's helicopter was used to extract the HPWREN equipment

Above: The equipment arrives at the fire exercise site

A Sheriff's helicopter was also used on May 24 to extract the equipment, and CDF staff was again at the relay site for support. The helicopter was flown by different pilots for the installation and removal of the equipment.

"Your team has done a fantastic job developing the package into a nearly self-contained and readily deployable by air system," said Steve Shoemaker, CDF Fire Captain, Gillespie Helitack Base. "With many of the suggested changes and additions, the system continues to become more user friendly. I also appreciate the inter-agency approach to the mission: HPWREN/SDSO/CDF."

A large set of additional photos is available for May 23, 2005 and for May 24, 2005.

HPWREN previously deployed high speed data connectivity during three actual fire incidents: the Coyote Fire in July 2003, the Eagle Fire in May 2004, and the Mataguay Fire in July 2004.

 back to top

  back to HPWREN news

field research
network analysis
  ~ university of california, san diego ~ © 2000 ~