New eyes in the sky to boost Victoria’s firefighting capability

A new team of specialist FRV firefighters will be using technology that is revolutionising the way crews combat emergencies.

Thursday, 28 January 2021 at 4:46 am

FRV’s new aviation unit will work alongside partner agencies to oversee the state’s aviation response.

The unit has also received four new RPAS (remote piloted aircraft systems, or ‘drones’) to help monitor fires, floods, marine and Hazmat incidents across the state.

FRV’s Deputy Commissioner of Strategy, Martin Braid, said the team will be made up of CASA-qualified (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) RPAS pilots and specialist aviation accredited personnel, including air attack supervisors and aircraft officers.

“FRV protects communities and lives right across Victoria during a range of emergency incidents including grass and bushfires,” Deputy Commissioner Braid said.

“The technology means we can monitor fires from the air, and get a much better picture of fires that are often large and complex.

“We will also continue to provide support for other agencies right across the state using this new capability.”

The RPAS are equipped with high definition thermal imaging and live streaming cameras to gather intelligence, which improves community and firefighter safety.

The cutting edge technology allows Incident Controllers and fireground command personnel to make timely and informed decisions.

The FRV aviation unit also has a capability of highly trained personnel that will support State Aviation Operations during the summer fire season and as needed throughout the year

Fire Rescue Victoria Commissioner Ken Block said the introduction of the new unit and equipment was an important development for statewide firefighting operations.

“Victorian career firefighters were the first in Australia to start using RPAS technology for firefighting operations and FRV’s new aviation unit will only enhance the strong foundation of knowledge and skills our people share.

“This technology provides us with much greater situational awareness during a range of emergency incidents and dramatically improves timely decision making and community and firefighter safety,” Fire Rescue Commissioner Block said.

Recently, FRV’s RPAS team was deployed to a burst dam in Torquay, where pilots were able to give emergency services workers on the ground a clear picture of the incident from above.

They were also deployed to the Latrobe Valley to use thermal imaging to assist in safely dismantling industrial equipment in coal mines.