Vic deploys airborne fire spies

Video surveillance now part of IT fire-fighting warchest

The Victorian government has outfitted its fire-spotting aircraft with video cameras to spot fires and monitor the effectiveness of fire-fighting efforts.

Cameras in four planes and a water-bombing helicopter can capture and stream footage to ground fire-fighter crews, allowing them to observe the progress of fires and the effect of fire retardants.

The State Aircraft Unit (SAU), under the Country Fire Authority, trialled electronic aerial reconnaissance systems last year and will consider buying more video systems for its fleet of 35 aircraft. A further 160 aircraft are available to the SAU on-call and together clock up to 9000 flight hours a season.

The video systems, bought from two local vendors, transmit captured footage to a base station and handheld devices used by fire-fighters over the Next-G network. Prior to the roll out, fire crews relied on hard copy maps and voice telecommunications.

It is part of a broad IT firefighting warchest that includes emergency mobile telecommunication units, phone and SMS alerts systems, permanent smoke detecting cameras installed throughout fire-prone areas in Victoria and NSW and laptops deployed in fire trucks.

SAU technical systems coordinator,, Adam Damen, said video surveillance “puts a picture” to voice communications.

Fire-fighters use a mobile version of Momentum's m-view system to receive video feeds from the aircraft, converted and streamed to specialist handheld devices used in the field.

North American and Canadian fire-fighters also use aircraft video surveillance.

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