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Drones for Bushfire: Transforming Land Management with Drone Technology

Australia and Bushfires

Large parts of Australia have been devastated by the worst wildfires the country has seen in decades, with huge blazes tearing through bush, woodland, and national parks. With average temperatures continuing to increase across the globe, there is a continuous increased risked of fires spreading across Australia. The Australian bushfires of 2019-2020 caused severe harm to human health, wildlife, and the environment. The fires burned for weeks, killed more than 30 people, and destroyed over 5,900 buildings including over 2,800 homes. The smoke from the fires caused air pollution which can be harmful to health, and more than 4,000 people were admitted to hospital due to the smoke. An estimated 1.25 billion animals were lost, and scientists fear long-term damage to many sensitive ecosystems. The fires are continuing to harm human & animal life.

Are we facing another ‘Black Summer’? 

Australians are getting told to prepare for the most impactful bushfire season since black summer. An article from The Guardian highlights the future danger of the wildfires Australia may occur* With average temperatures continuing to rise, it is vital to equip firefighters with the necessary equipment and data to best battle future and present fires.

Fighting fires are a huge and dangerous mission. When fires have been at their worst, about 2,700 firefighters have been battling blazes at any one time in NSW. They are using a lot of equipment to battle these flames. Up to 100 aircraft in the sky in NSW and 60 in Victoria every day, they include helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and larger air-tankers, most of which can be used to “firebomb” water onto fires or drop retardant from the sky above.

What is the Australian government doing to prevent fires? 

Prescribed burning is the controlled use of fire on a particular area of landscape. The aim is to strategically reduce fire fuel hazards on public and private land across Australia. Reducing fuel hazards is important as it can make bushfires easier to control, help prevent a bushfire spreading to residential areas and save lives and property.

Prescribed burning is also employed for ecological purposes, including the protection and preservation of animal habitats, the rejuvenation of plant species and communities that rely on fire, and the enhancement of biodiversity within parks and reserves. Traditionally, this practice has been conducted using manned aircraft, which incurs high operational costs, poses safety risks for crews, and raises environmental concerns due to carbon emissions.

What RemSense has to offer

Flying low and slow in a single-engine helicopter while igniting fire below the aircraft is obviously very, very dangerous. This offers a very compelling justification for using drones for aerial ignition instead of manned aircraft.

Here at RemSense we are leader in deploying drones and drones services since 12 years and we recently bolstered our equipment portfolio with the addition of the cutting-edge FreeFly Alta X drone; One of the most significant advantages of the Alta X drone is its open-sourced nature, which means that we can use various payloads, flight batteries, and controllers to suit our needs. Thanks to this portfolio addition, we started a collaboration with Raindance Systems a WA Based leader in Incendiary Device Technology, to pioneer a unique drone solution poised to revolutionise the global approach to back burning, fuel load reduction, carbon abatement, and sequestration initiatives. This innovation positions Western Australia as a vanguard and catalyst, inspiring other nations to adopt similar advancements.

The introduction of this aerial ignition system represents a pivotal moment for the emergency response, environmental, and land management sectors, particularly in their efforts to combat and prevent bushfires. This new drone methodology features:

  • A unique folding mechanism that allows the aircraft to pack down to half of its deployed size making it highly portable for a UAV of its size
  • ActiveBlade: precision flight with 1/5th of the vibration levels due to ActiveBlade design, extending component life and enhancing data quality.
  • Operational flight time: LiDAR (5kg) – 40min, Phase One 100MP camera (2kg) – 45 min, 45 min, Raindance R4/500 (2.4kg) – 45 min.
  • Longer flights: deliver reduced data breaks due to less battery changes, more productive & efficient flight time, less data trimming /editing providing improved overall efficiency.
  • Maximum payload: 15kg, allowing multiple sensors.
  • Highly Customisable: A huge range of deployable sensors and Equipment such as Sonar, Lidar, Gas and VOC, Multispectral, RGB, Thermal, Hyperspectral, Aerial Ignition, Equipment winches and Droppers

How does this help people in the field and reduce land management costs?

Firstly, this advanced drone possesses the capability to deploy incendiary capsules, also known as fire balls or pills, swiftly and accurately from the air. This feature proves invaluable in assisting ground crews during emergency bushfire responses.

Conservation and land management departments can leverage this technology for controlled burns, effectively reducing fire fuel loads in preparation for the bushfire season. Its precision is further enhanced by GPS guidance, allowing for meticulous mission planning. Moreover, the precision logging functionality simplifies year-to-year temporal analysis of burn programs.

Notably, the cost efficiency of this drone becomes evident when compared to the expenses associated with maintaining manned aviation standby services, particularly helicopters. Additionally, it enables the cost-effective management of smaller burn areas that may not justify the deployment of helicopters. By employing a series of smaller aerial burns instead of one large operation, departments can exercise precise control over parameters like heat, speed, and smoke/heat emissions in proximity to urban areas.

When coupled with a carbon abatement and sequestration credit scheme, this drone can effectively offset its own operational expenses. Furthermore, its ability to operate during nighttime hours, when helicopters are grounded, offers extended operational windows, enhancing flexibility in adhering to planned burn schedules.

Finally, this remote piloted aircraft is well-suited for reaching areas inaccessible by foot, minimizing risks and reducing the number of personnel exposed to potential hazards. In summary, its multifaceted benefits extend beyond cost savings to encompass safety enhancements and operational efficiency for land management departments.

The new aerial ignition system is an excellent way for business and government departments to truly innovate and reduce the impacts of climate change, reduce costs, and increase personal safety.

How drones can help further?

The use of remotely piloted aircrafts has other advantages such as:

  • Identifying hotspots
  • Early bushfire detection
  • Providing real-time situational awareness
  • Detecting people and animals in need
  • Mapping fire perimeter
  • Delivering water or equipment for firefighters
  • Offering a bird’s eye view perspective of wildfires, gaining them additional information
  • Identifying which areas need the most attention. This can be done to prevent a fire or prevent a fire spreading.

Enquire today

Adrian Hollis

+ 61 0 400 943 970
580 Hay Street, Level 4, Suite 173.
Perth 6000
WA

*source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-04-19/firefighting-choppers-cost-millions-on-stand-by/401846# Helen Brown: ABC TV
* Link: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/aug/23/australian-bushfire-season-how-to-prepare.

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