Sarah Jean Seman

The California National Guard has launched an MQ-1 predator drone to track the Rim Fire expansion.

The flames have burned 192,737 acres in and around Yosemite National Park since August 17, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

It seems the 20 helicopters currently monitoring the area are not enough to spot new flare-ups. While helicopters must refuel every two hours, the drone is capable of a continuous 22-hour surveillance flight. A division of the National Guard is flying the system from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif. 

"They're piping what they're seeing directly to the incident commander, and he's seeing it in real time over a computer network," National Guard Lt. Col. Tom Keegan told Fox News.

At 27 feet in length the machine can reach 135 miles per hour. Similar drones operated by the United States Air Force have been used to fire missiles in Iran and Afghanistan.

The MQ-1 will be escorted by a manned aircraft outside of the fire, the Associated Press reported.

This is not the first time military drones have been used to track fires. In 2008 and 2009 drones flew over Southern California using infrared imaging sensors to locate forest fire hot spots.

Watch a timelapse of the fire's progression:
 

Sarah Jean Seman

Sarah Jean Seman is a Townhall Web Editor. Follow Sarah Jean Seman on Twitter @sarah_jean_

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography