ChannelLife Australia - Industry insider news for technology resellers
Story image
Drones aid bushfire monitoring in ground-breaking NSW trial
Tue, 2nd Apr 2024

In a significant step towards elevating bushfire protection strategies and prioritising firefighter safety, advanced long-range drone technology has been used to monitor bush and grass fires across western New South Wales. Australian drone developer Ninox Robotics cooperated with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) in a two-week trial that concluded in March.

The Perimeter 8+, a long-range multi-rotor drone with a capability for up to four hours of flight and a range of as much as 50 km from the ground control system, was employed during the trial. The drone, equipped with an electro-optical and infrared (thermal) gimballed camera, can discern heat signatures vital for identifying fires triggered by lightning strikes.

The drone, operational day and night, beams its footage in real time, providing invaluable information to the RFS for them to coordinate their detection methods, deployment of firefighters and the collection of live intelligence on current fires. In an important advance, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) granted approval for after-dark activity across an eighth of the state surrounding Cobar and Bourke, giving this operation a unique edge over manned aircraft, which are restricted from night-time surveillance.

Marcus Ehrlich, Ninox Robotics’ Founder and Managing Director, underscored the objective to diminish the size and severity of bushfires by early detection and supplying up-to-the-minute data to firefighting teams. "This trial allowed us to use drone technology in the context of bush and grass fire management," Mr Ehrlich said. "This technology can furnish fire agencies, like the RFS, with another significant tool. Anything that can aid the protection of communities is a good thing and should be explored and implemented."

The RFS reiterated their dedication to embracing technology that has the potential to save lives. Deputy Commissioner of the RFS, Peter McKechnie stated that the service is committed to creating and utilising technology that could shield people and property. "The RFS acknowledges the critical role of innovation in this area, aiming to leave a profound imprint on emergency response capabilities,” he expressed. "We look forward to seeing how this technology can be deployed to protect communities but also enhance the overall performance of our agency."

Recent studies highlight an increase in extreme bushfires globally, potentially exacerbating climate change. Mr Ehrlich pointed out that early detection of bushfires could considerably reduce their environmental impact. He drew attention to the substantial carbon dioxide emissions during the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/2020, which amounted to around 80 percent of Australia's typical annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Apart from bushfire management, Ninox Robotics offers aerial intelligence for a varied range of sectors including infrastructure, defence, agriculture, biosecurity, emergency services, as well as search and rescue, security, and research. Ves notably, the company has permissions to fly beyond visual line of sight, above the 400ft recreational ceiling, and for night operations, marking it as a leader in Australia's commercial drone operations.