"The NASA drone is really a spectacular development," said Schwarzenegger, who referred to the aircraft as the one of the "most exciting new weapons in our firefighting arsenal."
Ikhana, a remotely piloted aircraft with an infrared scanning sensor developed by NASA, flew over much of the state this past week, aiding the local, state and federal battle against the spread of the blazes.
The infrared imaging provides real-time information on fire activity to commanders in the field, allowing them to more efficiently deploy their resources.
Schwarzenegger said the technology has helped save structures and lives in Butte County, where fire officials issued evacuation orders based on information from the aircraft.
"This unmanned plane is a true lifesaver," he said.
In addition, Ikhana has been valuable in providing information when conditions are too smoky for traditional aircraft to monitor fires.
Schwarzenegger also used today's event to promote the emergency response initiative in his proposed budget. The initiative would provide more funding for extra resources such as more firefighters, trucks and aircraft.