Ninox drones provide new tech in bushfire protection efforts

Tuesday, 02 April, 2024

Ninox drones provide new tech in bushfire protection efforts

In a significant move to enhance bushfire protection efforts and prioritise firefighter safety, cutting-edge long-range drone technology has been deployed to observe bush and grass fires across western New South Wales.

Australian drone operator Ninox Robotics collaborated with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) for the two-week trial which was completed in March. The Perimeter 8+, a long-range multi-rotor drone with a four-hour flight capability and a range of up to 50 km from the ground control system, was utilised during the trial.

Equipped with a real-time dual electro-optical and infrared (thermal) gimballed camera, the drone can detect heat signatures crucial for identifying fires sparked by lightning strikes.

Operating during both day and night, the drone’s footage was transmitted in real time, enabling the RFS to plan how they would detect outbreaks, deploy firefighters and gather live intelligence on ongoing blazes.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) granted approval for after-dark missions in an eighth of the state of New South Wales near Cobar and Bourke, providing a unique advantage over manned aircraft restricted from night-time surveillance.

Marcus Ehrlich, the founder and Managing Director of Ninox Robotics, emphasised the aim to reduce the size and severity of bushfires by early identification and providing up-to-date information to fire crews.

“The trial saw the use of drone technology in the scope of bush and grass fire management,” he said. “This technology can provide fire agencies, like the RFS, with another important tool in the kit they can use. Anything that can support the protection of communities is a good thing and should be explored and utilised.”

The RFS echoed their commitment to adopting technology that can save lives, emphasising the importance of innovation in their efforts.

Peter McKechnie, Deputy Commissioner of the RFS, said the Service was committed to developing and using technology that had the potential to protect people and property.

“The RFS recognises the critical importance of innovation in this field, with the aim to make a significant impact on emergency response capabilities,” he said. “We look forward to seeing how this technology can be utilised to not only to protect communities but also optimise the overall performance of our agency.”

Recent research indicates a rise in extreme bushfires globally can lead to worsening climate change.

Ehrlich pointed out that early detection of bushfires could significantly reduce their environmental impact, noting that the substantial carbon dioxide emissions during the Black Summer bushfires of 2019–2020 were around 80% of Australia’s typical annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Apart from bushfire management, Ninox Robotics provides aerial intelligence for various industries, including infrastructure, defence, agriculture, biosecurity, emergency services, search and rescue, security, and research. Notably, the company holds permissions to fly beyond visual line of sight, above the 120 m recreational ceiling, and for night operations.

Image: Ninox Robotics founder Marcus Ehrlich with a Perimeter 8+ long-range multi-rotor platform.

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