U.S. Forest Service deploys Avenza PDF Maps app for firefighting

October 30, 2015  - By 0 Comments
A San Juan interagency hotshot crew member refers to a map on his iPad as he coordinates execution of their burnout operation.  (Photo credit: Esther Godson)

A San Juan interagency hotshot crew member refers to a map on his iPad as he coordinates execution of their burnout operation.  (Photo credit: Esther Godson)

Every year thousands of acres of forests are engulfed in fires. Recognizing the benefits of geospatial technology, the United States Forest Service (USFS) Geospatial Management Office (GMO) is using Avenza System Inc.’s award-winning PDF Maps mobile app to deliver interactive digital maps to firefighters and emergency response teams situated in forests across the United States and its territories.

The USFS fights wildfires and other natural disasters in more than 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands, totaling an estimated 193 million acres or 30 percent of all federally managed lands. The USFS GMO is responsible for the implementation of the Forest Service geospatial program which includes using technologies such as GIS, remote sensing, cartography, geodesy and GPS.

The centered blue GPS position on an operations map pinpoints the user’s location. (Photo credit: Carl Beyerhelm)

The centered blue GPS position on an operations map pinpoints the user’s location. (Photo credit: Carl Beyerhelm)

With increased use of digital solutions, the USFS benefits from Avenza’s PDF Maps app geospatial technology in enabling its thousands of firefighters and support personnel. The PDF Maps app aids emergency response teams who use digital devices for work in the field.

The app provides constant access to geographic information and points of interest, with additional interactive features such as measuring, place marking and location tagging. The app operates without the risk of lost reception due to cell tower proximity and does not rely on an Internet connection to use map data. It uses GPS to obtain and display an accurate position on the ground regardless of network connectivity.

A hardcopy map is compared to its digital counterpart cached on a smartphone. (photo credit: Kari Greer)

A hardcopy map is compared to its digital counterpart cached on a smartphone. (photo credit: Kari Greer)

“Accessing maps on mobile devices ensure responders have accurate and current geographic information while they’re out in the field,” said Carl Zulick, Geospatial Information Officer, USFS. “Avenza’s PDF Maps app makes it possible for teams to use any map digitally without requiring a data connection while involved in an emergency situation. Since the maps are location-aware and interactive, we can capture real-time data, photos, and locations. This data can be shared to assess the situation and make necessary strategic changes and improve situational awareness.”

The PDF Maps app is available now on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store free of charge for personal recreational use. A Windows version is currently in public beta release. Commercial, government and academic use licensing is available for a nominal annual fee. Pricing of each map is set by the publisher and free maps remain free to users through the PDF Maps app in-app store. Commercial use licensing starts at US$49 per year and drops on a per-device basis as deployment numbers increase.

Mobile maps help air-tanker pilots avoid the mapped yellow areas, where application of aerial fire retardant is restricted. (Photo credit: Max Wahlberg) 

Mobile maps help air-tanker pilots avoid the mapped yellow areas, where application of aerial fire retardant is restricted. (Photo credit: Max Wahlberg)

Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

Post a Comment