A new era of dawn patrols has arrived in the Australian Capital Territory with the deployment of Army small unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor spot fires during early morning hours when conventional aircraft are preparing for the demanding hours ahead.
CAPTION: Royal Australian Artillery soldiers gather around their workstation as they guide their AE Wasp III drone over the Orroral Valley fire in the south of the ACT. Photo by Captain Shaun Montgomery. Story by Major Cameron Jamieson.
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Integrated into the extensive ACT Emergency Services Agency’s intelligence collection capabilities, the small reconnaissance aircraft are fitted with an infrared video camera, ideal for looking into the heart of a spot fire.
The Wasp III small unmanned aircraft system is a light-weight drone that provides beyond-line-of-sight imagery.
It is currently being used to observe the Orroral Valley fire in the ACT.
A video screen shot of Wasp imagery of the fairgrounds in the ACT —>
The aircraft is equipped with two on-board cameras to provide real-time intelligence to its operators, and its small size makes it easier than larger unmanned aircraft to integrate into the air movements coordination that is necessary in modern firefighting.
Gunner Scott Fressand, 20th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, is a team member operating the Wasp III over the burning slopes of Mount Tennant, near the village of Tharwa in the south of the ACT.
He said the system was normally used at the tactical level for tasks such as providing imagery to soldiers on the battlefield of what is over the next hill.
“For this operation we’ve been watching the fire and looking for spot fires, which can be concealed by smoke,” he said.
“Then we relay the information to our headquarters.
“It’s been great to help, and it’s a valuable tool to use at a time of day when other air assets aren’t available.”