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Aerial fire fighting tool takes off

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03 Sep 2013
Innovative technology allowing firefighters to get a bird’s eye view of a fire or major incident will be trialled operationally by the MFB for 12 months.


The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) remote-controlled aircraft, previously only used in training scenarios, will now be available to respond to incidents as part of a pilot program.

MFB owns two of the quad rotor helicopters, which are piloted by remote control and carry a camera into the air above an incident. They can transmit real time images to the incident controller via a portable monitor as well as onto the screens in the MFB Control Unit.

This has the potential to greatly enhance the incident controller’s ability to make timely, effective tactical decisions and deployments as well as allowing management teams to locate and monitor the positions of their crews and resources.

There are two different craft owned and operated by the MFB.  CQ1 has a high definition camera and is excellent for high quality photos and video.  CQ2 has a combination camera, which combines a standard definition camera and thermal imaging camera.  Pilots can flick between the two camera types on CQ2, to give operators both types of vision.

During the training phase, the UAV was deployed to the truck accident on CityLink (17 May 2013) and the CMA Recycling Centre fire in Ringwood (1 December 2012).  During both incidents the footage helped inform operational decisions.

Commander Will Glenn, who has spearheaded the project, will speak at the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) Conference this week.

“Currently, MFB’s only capacity to undertake aerial monitoring and intelligence gathering during an incident is via ladder platforms, which have a lower level observation height and do not have cameras, thermal imaging or plume analysis capability,” he said.

“If the trial is successful, UAVs could improve our ability to rapidly gather a more complete overview of an emergency situation with their rapid deployment, manoeuvrability and ability to provide real-time imagery to the incident management team.”

The UAV program commenced on August 23 and will run for 12 months.


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