Judy Reese, co-owner of Raven Technical Resources, takes pictures with the company's new infrared camera. Reese and her business partner, Ken Deyoe, have started a company that will contract infrared services to public and private organizations.
Photo by Mark Quiner
Helicopter pilot Ken Deyoe remembers soaring over Kenai Peninsula forests in a helicopter a number of years ago searching for a missing man near Skilak Lake.
A 25-year helicopter pilot veteran, Deyoe said this type of mission can be expensive.
In fact, Deyoe, who was doing contract work for the Alaska Division of Forestry at the time, estimated that the two aircraft and dozen employees on the mission cost about $6,000 for the four-hour mission.
Deyoe and his business partner, Judy Reese, have started a new business that could make rescue missions, among other spotting operations, more efficient: a company that contracts infrared technology services.
"We figure we can fill a niche statewide," Reese said of the Soldotna-based company.
Infrared is technology that captures photographic images of heat radiating from an object in the infrared wavelengths. Their company, Raven Technical Resources, will be an infrared provider with airborne and ground-based operations.
Deyoe is the pilot and Reese the infrared technician.
They say their services are in high demand in the state, and that no other company in Alaska offers this service.
For example, infrared is useful in detecting hard-to-see images such as finding a person in the woods, counting game on surveys, mapping forest fires and tracking oil spills, Reese said.
They will contract their services to private and public organizations.
"It will point (images) out like a spotlight," Deyoe said.
Or, maybe like a light bulb, Reese added.
Reese said she has 20 years of experience working in the forestry business with wildland fires. The last nine were spent as a fire suppression coordinator for the Alaska Division of Forestry.
Deyoe is also no stranger to the forestry business. Working for Kenai Air Alaska, he has flown a variety of missions for state and federal land management agencies. Both resigned their positions to start this business.
After resigning, they went to Oregon to operate infrared equipment for another company.
Recalling a forest fire four-years-ago, Reese said the Division of Forestry tried to contract infrared services from a company in Salem, Ore., unsuccessfully.
She said their services can help a variety of state and private organizations operate more efficiently.
Deyoe said if infrared services were available when they were looking for the lost man at Skilak Lake, it would have probably cut the search time in half. Eventually they did find him with strips of toilet paper spread across an alder bush to make him visible.
"It took an exorbitant amount of time to locate (that person)," Deyoe said.
So this duo with deep roots in the state is working to start a homegrown Alaska business.
Although the business has been in the planning stages for more than two years, a $42,000 infrared camera was purchased last week so they can start the ground-based portion of their business. They expect to have a helicopter by this fall, along with additional camera equipment to operate from it. By next spring the company should be fully operational, Deyoe said.
When they get the helicopter, they will operate the airborne operations of the company out of the Kenai Municipal Airport.
Dennis Ricker, regional aviation manager for the Alaska Division of Forestry, said he could see the division using this technology during the fire season when Raven gets going.
"Most people that specialize in this are in the Lower 48," Ricker said. "It takes so long to get them up here. If there's somebody sitting in our backyard, it would be pretty useful."
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