Forest Officials Test Civilian Spy Planes to Fight Western U.S. Wildfires

Firefighters are getting a high-tech ally in their battle against wildfires: a remote-controlled spy plane that doesn't mind smoke, can see in the dark and never sleeps.

UAVs are by no means cheap, an Altair costs upward of $1 million (euro0.82 million), while small UAVs are priced up to $100,000 (euro81,760) each, and they won't replace piloted aircraft.

But they're another set of eyes for firefighters.

''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, ''the better job you can do.''

On the Net:

U.S. Forest Service Remote Sensing Applications Center:

NASA Ames Research Center:

NASA Dryden Flight Research Center:

Copyright 2005 Associated Press