Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) crews across the State are being trained to use state-of-the-art drone technology to assist in firefighting operations and other emergencies.
“These drones are being deployed to 25 regional areas, giving FRNSW crews an eye in the sky to help them better fight fires and keep our communities safe,” said Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke. “The drones are connected to FRNSW’s wireless and satellite communication networks, allowing images to be viewed and analysed in real time at the scene of an emergency which helps firefighters make quicker decisions and act faster.”
The investment is part of the NSW government’s response to its Bushfire Inquiry recommendations, with $5.2 million earmarked in the state budget to expand the drone program with new aviation staff, training and equipment.
The aircraft are equipped with thermal imaging cameras and laser technology that can detect variable heat temperatures, identify people or animals under threat in a fire zone, and measure the size of an area impacted by fire.
FRNSW Bushfire and Aviation Unit Commander Scott Donohoe said the drones can be activated at an emergency scene within minutes.
“The drones are stored in our vehicles and ready for immediate use, providing FRNSW commanders with aerial images that can help determine the safest and most effective places to position fire trucks and crews,” Superintendent Donohoe said.
“We are planning to have around 200 firefighters trained to pilot the drones. The available training over several tiers includes sessions on night flying, situational awareness, live streaming, rapid mapping, aerial incendiary use, and 3D panoramic skills.”
The drones can be used to assess bush fire risk, assist in hazard reduction operations, and find people missing in dense bushland.
The drones have already been deployed to the Northern Rivers region to assess flood-damaged infrastructure, identify hazardous materials, and find leftover debris.