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The Australian state of Victoria is leading an innovative, national trial which will test the use of night vision technology to fight fires from the sky at night and better protect the community.
Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said night-time aerial firebombing had the potential to significantly improve Victoria’s firefighting capability, better protect life and property and significant infrastructure during major bushfires by continuing the work that would be done during the day to contain fires.
“Fighting fires in the dark hours, in the cooler part of the night or in the early parts of the morning would enable us to get on top of fires quicker, particularly those in remote parts of Victoria where access may be difficult,” he said.
“While the use of Night Vision Goggles and infrared technology isn’t new, this has not been used together in Victoria for firebombing or Australia.
“We are very keen to trial this capability, and understand how it would work in a system, and how we would fly and make it safe to do so.”
It has been approved by Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and will involve controlled conditions at all times.
The first of its kind in Australia, the trial has a national focus will be based at Ballarat Airport. EMV is the lead with Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, CFA, National Aerial Firefighting Centre and national and international agencies.
The trial will test the ability to hover-fill helicopters at night and test the efficiency of night vision technology, including infrared systems and night vision goggles.
The results of the trial will be used to guide the future use of night-time aerial firebombing operations in Victoria as well as other states and territories. It will not result in immediate capability, however it is possible that operators will have the capability for the 2018/19 summer season.
CASA is pleased to assist Emergency Management Victoria with the aviation safety issues associated with the trial.
“While night vision aircraft operations have been permitted for many years, under the safety regulations, using this technology in firefighting is a new challenge,” a CASA spokesman said.
“A lot of work has been done by CASA’s experts to ensure the appropriate safety standards are met while giving firefighting aircraft the ability to work at night.”