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San Diego Firefighters Receive New Technology To Improve Communication

San Diego firefighters check out new technology, Aug. 10, 2017.

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: San Diego firefighters check out new technology, Aug. 10, 2017.

Poway-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems will provide the city of San Diego with the use of an aircraft to improve communication between firefighters during wildfires, the mayor's office announced Thursday.

In the first phase of an agreement between the company and the city, San Diego firefighters will ride along on a General Atomics aircraft outfitted with sensors focused on gathering details on fire behavior and location. The information can then be relayed to officials on the ground to ensure that fire personnel are sent to where they can be the most effective.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer called the deal "a game changer" for fighting fires.

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

In the future, the King Air plane will be outfitted with equipment to make it an aerial cellular network, helping emergency personnel working in locations with limited cell coverage, or where cell towers have been damaged.

"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," San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Chief Brian Fennessy said. "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."

Linden Blue, CEO of General Atomics Aeronautical, said the system includes technology similar to what's provided to the military for gathering intelligence and reconnaissance information.

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