U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Fire Science Brief, Issue 118, August 2010


US government work.


New developments in high-resolution remote sensing systems have demonstrated the potential for generating direct, more accurate, and efficient estimates of fuels and the vegetation characteristics that influence fire behavior at the landscape scale. Two of these direct measurement tools are operated from aircraft and known by their acronyms LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and IFSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar). IFSAR is less costly than LIDAR, and unlike LIDAR, IFSAR sees through clouds and smoke. This project sought to evaluate the utility of IFSAR data for characterizing vegetation structure in the chaparral-dominated landscapes typical over much of southern California. The researchers found however, that current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations severely limit IFSAR’s ability to capture the detailed bare ground surface information necessary for accurate characterization of vegetation. It turned out that a combination of LIDAR surface information and IFSAR vegetation measurements provide useful landscape scale fuels estimates.