Firefighters’ high-tech weapon helping quench the flames
Originally posted by A Current Affair Staff @ 9news.com.au
Drones are the newest weapon giving Australian firefighters an edge in combating destructive blazes.
The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) can provide firefighter commanders with live-streamed video of emergencies as they unfold, helping them make life-and-death decisions with the most up-to-date information about circumstances on the ground.
A drone was even deployed at the Port Kembla incident last year that saw bulk carrier ship Iron Chieftain go up in flames.
"The thermal imaging there gave us an indication of temperatures within the bunker tanks, and that was critical to our firefighting tactics, but it was also critical to our environmental management as well," Fire and Rescue Chief Superintendent Ken Murphy told A Current Affair.
But the drones can be equally effective in a wide range of fire-fighting scenarios.
"When we have a major bushfire that is going to impact on an area, we can do what's known as structural triage," Supt Murphy said.
"So we can go in, fly the drones over an area and then, as an incident controller, I can effectively allocate my resources to they do the greater good."
The cameras are so powerful they can even zoom in on a number plate from hundreds of metres away.
Supt Murphy said this meant that in a hazardous materials incident, they could identify the substances by labelling and other markers.
"If you look at how we have increased our capability over the past years, that really shows what we can achieve with these," Supt Murphy said.
Firefighter Anthony Wallgate is an approved drone pilot and was one of the Australian Urban Search and Rescue team sent to provide aid in the search for earthquake survivors in Christchurch in 2011.
He said drone technology would have been crucial.
"We can actually put RPAS's, or drones, inside a building now, a collapsed building," he said.
"So we can actually map areas and find people that have been caught up in the collapse zone."
Australian firefighter drone pilots were even called in when deadly wildfires swept through Greece last year.
Using the drone footage, the team was able to map the fire's destructive path and accurately reveal the extensive damage and devastation.
New South Wales Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant said the technology added a "whole new layer of safety" for officers going into dangerous situations.
"I think over time there is going to be an evolution, and people forget that dealing with fire - there's a sceince to it, as well as the tactical, and the equipment that's used," he said.
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