Long-range drones used to surveil bushfires in NSW

Tuesday, 16 April, 2024 | Supplied by: Ninox Robotics

Long-range drones used to surveil bushfires in NSW

Cutting-edge long-range drone technology has been deployed to surveil bush and grass fires across western NSW, as part of a recent trial conducted by drone operator Ninox Robotics in collaboration with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS). The aim of the trial, according to Ninox Managing Director Marcus Ehrlich, was to reduce the size and severity of bushfires through early identification and provide up-to-date information to fire crews.

The Perimeter 8+, a long-range multirotor drone with a four-hour flight capability and a range of up to 50 km from the ground control system, was utilised during the two-week trial. Equipped with a real-time dual electro-optical and infrared (thermal) gimballed camera, the drone can detect heat signatures crucial for identifying fires sparked by lightning strikes.

Operating during both day and night, the drone’s footage was transmitted in real time, enabling the RFS to plan how they would detect outbreaks, deploy firefighters and gather live intelligence on ongoing blazes. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) granted approval for after-dark missions in an eighth of the state of NSW near Cobar and Bourke, providing an advantage over manned aircraft restricted from night-time surveillance.

“This technology can provide fire agencies, like the RFS, with another important tool in the kit they can use,” said Ehrlich, who also founded the drone company.

“Anything that can support the protection of communities is a good thing and should be explored and utilised.”

RFS Deputy Commissioner Peter McKechnie said the Service is committed to developing and using technology that has the potential to protect people and property, stating, “The RFS recognises the critical importance of innovation in this field, with the aim to make a significant impact on emergency response capabilities.

“We look forward to seeing how this technology can be utilised to not only to protect communities, but also optimise the overall performance of our agency.”

Ehrlich noted that early detection of bushfires could significantly reduce their environmental impact, with a recent rise in extreme bushfire activity around the world threatening to worsen climate change. Apart from bushfire management, Ninox Robotics provides aerial intelligence for various industries, including infrastructure, defence, agriculture, biosecurity, emergency services, search and rescue, security and research.

Image caption: Ninox Robotics’ Marcus Ehrlich with a Perimeter 8+ long-range multirotor platform.

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