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San Diego, General Atomics Partner to Deploy Cutting-Edge Technology to Fight Wildfires

Implementation Coincides With Fire, Police Departments Training in Preparation for Wildfire Season

Thursday, August 10, 2017 - NEWS RELEASE

San Diego – In advance of San Diego’s wildfire season, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Incorporated announced a new partnership Thursday that will make San Diego the first city in the United States to use state-of-the-art technology to help firefighters obtain real-time information about how a fire spreads and enhance their communication.

The first phase of the collaboration allows San Diego firefighters to ride along on a General Atomics manned aircraft outfitted with sensors focused on gathering critical intelligence on fire behavior and location. This information can be obtained from outside the operational area of other aircraft and then relayed to officials on the ground to ensure that fire personnel are sent to areas where they can be the most effective. This technology can be utilized to gain critical information during a variety of emergencies and is an All Hazard Intelligence gathering resource that can operate 24/7.

“This is a game changer,” Mayor Faulconer said. “By using proven technology in an innovative way, firefighters will be able to put out fires more efficiently, protect neighborhoods and save lives. San Diegans may be the first to benefit from this partnership, but I am confident that this solution will be replicated across the country.”

Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Fennessy said, “Reliable communication and accurate information are crucial when battling a wildfire and this powerful new tool will give us the most precise data we’ve ever had during an emergency. We look forward to working with General Atomics during our partnership and helping them explore new ways their technology can be used for the public good.”

“San Diego police and firefighters take pride in how well we work together and having information like this at our fingertips will help us better coordinate our efforts to protect the public,” Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said.

A future phase of the partnership will outfit the aircraft with communications technology that allows the aircraft to act as a roaming cellular network. It will provide first responders with the ability to communicate with each other in areas with limited network coverage or when cellular towers have been damaged.

“We are very excited to demonstrate this sensor technology to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. This is the same technology used by our military customers to provide intelligence and reconnaissance information in deployed operations every second of every day,” said Linden Blue, CEO of General Atomics Aeronautical. “This proof of concept is a significant first step toward enhancing situational awareness for the city’s first responders.”

General Atomics has used similar technology overseas in military applications for years. San Diego will be the first city in the country to use this proof-of-concept solution and at no cost to taxpayers.

CONTACT: Craig Gustafson at (619) 453-9880 or [email protected]