FireFlight mapping system to undergo bushfire season trial

Monday 20 December, 2021

The Marshall Government will support the trial of a real-time fire mapping system during this year’s fire season to help better protect communities in bushfire prone areas.

“This technology offers the possibility of improving how we respond to and control the threat posed by bushfires, better protecting people and property in bushfire prone areas,” said Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni.

FireFlight Technologies – a startup based at the University of South Australia’s Innovation and Collaboration Centre – has received $100,000 in funding from the Marshall Government to trial its FireFlight system with the Country Fire Service (CFS).

The FireFlight sensor system is mounted on a manned aircraft that is flown over an active bushfire.

It takes less than a minute to fly over the fire front, create the map of the fire and deliver it to the firefighting agency, allowing it to accurately track the fire’s path and potentially limit its destruction.

Minister Pisoni said the Marshall Liberal Government is committed to supporting startups and entrepreneurs to grow, scale and create jobs in the South Australian economy.

“Launched last year, the Go2Gov program supports early-stage businesses to pitch their innovative product or service to South Australian Government agencies,” said Minister Pisoni.

“This is another example of a project that pushes the boundaries and provides a solution to an important problem.

“As South Australia faces another potentially dangerous bushfire season, this trial will help the CFS identify how a bushfire is moving so they can best allocate their resources to fight it.”

FireFlight Technologies founder and chief executive officer Dr Paul Dare said the system had proved valuable to firefighting agencies during trials in Queensland and Tasmania, and the SA trial will be the first full, season-long trial of the system in Australia.

“The FireFlight system will deliver real-time fire intelligence to incident controllers, helping them to efficiently deploy resources such as firefighters, fire trucks and firebombers where they are really needed,” Dr Dare said.

“The fire maps provided by the FireFlight system will show exactly where the fire is at that moment.

“The maps can be updated on a minute-by-minute basis, enabling the CFS to monitor the progression of the fire and better understand its behaviour.

“The length of the trial will enable us to make changes to the system during the season, based on feedback from the CFS, so that we can ensure we are meeting their needs.”

Minister for Emergency Services, Vincent Tarzia, said the trial is another example of how the Marshall Government is future-proofing the state against bushfires.

“Our $97.5 million response to the Keelty review has significantly strengthened South Australia’s defence against bushfires,” Minister Tarzia said.

“We’ve boosted CFS resources with new trucks and state-of-the-art thermal imaging cameras, and just opened our new $80m Emergency Services Headquarters at Keswick.

“Two Black Hawk helicopters are now on call to fight blazes this summer and now we’re trialling a real-time fire mapping system in a move that could have huge community safety benefits.”

CFS manager state air operations Nik Stanley said the trial will help to further develop the technology.

“The CFS is looking forward to seeing the results of further trials, developments and evaluations of the FireFlight fire mapping technology,” Mr Stanley said.

“The current trial will be fully evaluated at the end of this fire danger season by our Fire Behavioural Analysis team within the CFS and our partner agencies.”