Firefighters to use drones to get clear images, data of ‘real’ situation


New technology is being deployed across NSW to bolster firefighting efforts and safety, including ground-breaking drones providing firefighters with specialised images and data from incidents in “real time”.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott joined Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Paul Baxter at the Emergency Services Academy in Orchard Hills today to inspect the newest technology guaranteed to enhance firefighter situational awareness, and improve incident planning and preparation.

The tech package will see a $57.4 million investment by the NSW Government, as part of its overall $480 million response to the Independent Bushfire Inquiry following the Black Summer Bushfires of 2019/20.

The ‘connected firefighter’ package includes:

  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) which provide images and data from incidents in real-time, to assist firefighters with incident planning. These drones can now also assist HAZMAT crews with chemical and gas detection.
  • Cell On Wheels (CoWs) are mobile modules equipped with communications technology, which can also provide power for extended period, especially useful in remote parts of the State without coverage.
  • Upgrades to FRNSW Mobile Command Centres, ensuring communications between incident management teams and firefighters.
  • Vehicle as a Node (VaaNs) which are vehicles that have a built-in Wi-Fi hub to provide mobile 4G network in remote locations where satellite connection is limited.
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Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said, “What is apparent is that our emergency services are entering a tech boom, one which rightly puts NSW ahead of the pack this bushfire season,” Mr Elliott said.

“These assets will ensure our first responders are safe as they enter dangerous and volatile fire grounds to protect their communities,” he said

Commissioner Baxter said the investment will see fire trucks equipped with satellite communication capability to ensure radios can be upgraded remotely for faster, more efficient support across regional areas.

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“Responding to emergencies in ways that are timely, safe, and effective relies on having up-to-date IT and communications systems and equipment. It ensures that FRNSW is prepared for anything,” Commissioner Baxter said.

“Resources such as RPAS, two-way pagers, upgrades to our Mobile Command Centre and Cells on Wheels, provide smarter inter-operability for not only our firefighters on the ground, but also our communications personnel behind the scenes,” he said.