TAOS, N.M. (KRQE) – After the completion of the Willow Piles prescribed burns, Carson National Forest fire crews have shifted their focus to monitoring the piles as they continue to burn down. The U.S. Forest Service says crews have now begun testing a new monitoring method for the fires – unstaffed aerial systems.

These unmanned systems are drones that are equipped with infrared sensors. The sensors can detect heat in the piles, allowing crews to keep a close eye on areas that may reignite. The crews recently performed a test flight of the aerial system.

“The test flight showed us that unstaffed aerial systems have the potential to help us monitor prescribed fires,” said Fire Management Officer Jamie Long. “There’s still more testing to do, but we are so pleased with the initial results, including the additional safety component this brings to prescribed fire monitoring.” Forest Service crews plan to perform another test of the system in the next couple of weeks.