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NASA Calls Help from Private Pilots, Aims to Track Origin of Toxic Algea Bloom

Aug 02, 2016 03:27 AM EDT

Private pilots who dream of working for NASA now have a shot at becoming part of the agency. In hopes of tracking the cause and exterminating toxic algae blooms, NASA along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is asking the help of private pilots.

Toxic algae bloom has plagued Florida and Georgia waters for long. Despite constant research and study, finding out when and where algal blooms could start is the problem. Even with the help of satellites, the data takes long to analyze. In addition, satellites have difficulties seeing through clouds. Plus, satellites can't move around to specifically track the algal blooms. Moving the satellites around is also quite expensive. This is where aviation comes in.

"There are about 600,000 private pilots in the U.S. and over 200,000 GA aircraft," states Rafat Ansari, scientist at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland . "A fraction of this untapped resource can be used to study scientific issues in the nation's waterways....GA pilots are more knowledgeable of the communities they live in, and are therefore aware of the water-quality issues near them. As citizens, they love to help their communities."

However, there's a catch - private pilots have to do this on a volunteer basis. NASA won't be paying for the fuel, and not even for time spent up in the air. In fact, the agency has a preference for private pilots hoping to help out in the research of algal blooms. Particularly, NASA is asking help from private pilots who follow a routine flight path at an altitude between 2,000 and 3,000 feet above water.

Yet, private pilots who are willing can choose their own flight path all for basic algal bloom tracking and forecasting. If you're a private pilot with much time on your hands, sign up for the program by visiting the project website.

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