Victorian firefighters get a dedicated drone unit

The new unit will be responsible for operating drone technology to assist firefighters.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The Victorian government has launched an aviation unit within Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) that will be responsible for using drone technology to assist firefighters and other emergency services who are on-ground.

The new unit will be staffed by four specialist firefighters, including qualified Civil Aviation Safety Authority drone pilots and aviation accredited personnel.

As part of standing up the new FRV unit, four new drones will be made available to Victorian firefighters, which they can deploy to gather aerial images of fires and other emergencies.

More specifically, the new drones, according to the Victorian government, feature high-definition thermal imaging and live-streaming cameras, have the ability to fly for up to 30 minutes, and withstand strong wind conditions to help better monitor fires and other incidents from the air. 

These new drones will be in addition to the existing drone services that are used by FRV.

"As we saw during last year's devastating bushfire season, our firefighters tackle some incredibly complex and challenging fires -- these four new drones within Fire Rescue Victoria's new aviation unit will significantly add to their fire-fighting arsenal," Victorian Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said.

"Thanks to this highly specialist aviation unit and these new highly specialised drones, our emergency services will have greater access to critical information and intelligence to efficiently contain fires, respond to emergencies, and save lives."

A similar drone unit was set up within Victoria Police back in 2019 to aid police in a range of operations from forensically documenting crime scenes to capture footage from all angles with millimetre precision to helping them look for and assess stolen property, drugs, and missing people.

Governments are increasingly favouring the use of drones by emergency services. One of the recommendations that came from the New South Wales bushfire inquiry final report was to equip firefighters with more advanced technology, such as drones and remote sensors, to help them better understand, model, and predict bushfire behaviour, and respond more quickly.

Meanwhile, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife was using drones to assist with post-fire recovery, putting out that it was a cost-effective way to collect data to help assess the damage caused by bushfires during the 2019/20 summer. 

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