The United States Forest Service, having long ago farmed out basic facilities maintenance to private concessions, having raised campground rates for the upcoming season by as much as 70%, is now reported to have spent $100,000 each on a pair of state-of-the-art unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's).
"The more tools you have available in your toolbox," said Everett Hinkley, who heads the Forest Service's Remote Sensing Applications Center in Salt Lake City, to the AP, "the better job you can do."
The remote-controlled planes are likely to be used for mapping wildfires and for rooting out marijuana farms. According to one manufacturer, UAV's "can operate safely and unnoticed over sensitive areas," and can be used in such diverse applications as "convoy following," "agricultural mapping," "traffic monitoring," "perimeter surveillance," and "homeland security."
"We believe there are upwards of 5,000 pot growers on national forest land," said Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey to the Associated Press, "that exceeds the number of Forest Service employees in the entire state of California."
From Octatron.com: "SkySeer is a lightweight, portable, autonomous-flight UAV designed for single-person operation. It weighs less than five pounds, flies quietly, can be assembled in minutes, and is hand-launched... The night version SkySeer includes a thermal camera that allows filming in total darkness. A stealth surveillance mission at night at 250’ has been demonstrated. The two-mile range of coverage can be extended using NetWeaver. Training is required to fly a SkySeer."
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