Victoria to use drones to manage fires, feral animals

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Victoria to use drones to manage fires, feral animals

Asks for RPA providers to join new panel.

The Victorian Environment department is planning to use drones to help it control bushfires and manage feral animals and protected species.

The agency has asked providers of remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) to put forward bids to become part of a new panel of drone suppliers.

It is considering using drones in a number of areas including planned burns, animal welfare, wildlife surveys, compliance, and road and bridge management, according to tender documents.

Specifically, drones could help provide the department live detail on fire conditions, accurate localised weather information, assessments on hazardous trees, and potential reignition sites, it said.

"Improving “eye in the sky” video/thermal imagery capability will assist DELWP to deliver more
effective and safer burn sites," the department wrote.

"There is also potential to expand the usage of RPAs to utilise the cost effectiveness of these systems to deliver detailed imagery used in the assessment of the hazards applicable on the roads managed by DELWP as well as providing specific data on individual hazardous trees or animal review in remote areas."

Planned burns are undertaken to reduce the level of fuels in forests and other areas. 

The department envisages that prior to a burn being undertaken, drones could help collect information on vegetation and the terrain to aid with planning for lighting.

During the burn, the department said drones could provide a live video feed of the activity to the operations centre to monitor personnel and progress of the burn.

The aircraft could also collect data on temperature, wind direction, and humidity to help aid decision making.

Once a planned burn is complete, drones could be used to assess the area for hot spots, providing a live feed and thermal imaging, the department said.

Vic Environment plans to award a closed panel of suppliers for a period of one year, with the potential for two one-year extensions.

It expects it will need drones that can fly continuously for four hours.

However, it noted that the panel was the first step in figuring out whether drones would be appropriate for the department's requirements.

"Procurement, operational and equipment requirements must also be considered," the department wrote.

"Once in operation the intention is for users of the panel to be surveyed to evaluate the performance of RPAs in live issue management and delivery of benefits for DELWP."

The South Australian government last year commenced a $375,000 trial of drones to help reduce the impact of wild dogs and pests in agricultural areas. 

The pilot - which is being run in conjunction with the University of Adelaide - will wrap up in July this year, after which the government will decide whether to roll out the technology more widely.

Drones are increasingly seen as a cost-effective way to monitor issues in the agricultural sector, such as weed infestations and pests.

Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources and Mines has tested whether Yamaha RMAX drones coupled with satellite imagery could help tackle high-density weed infestations in 2013.

The CSIRO has also used the technology to try to control the "purple plague" in partnership with the Queensland University of Technology.

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