Sunday, February 25, 2024

Fire drones fly into NSW flood clean-up effort

Ground-breaking drone technology is being used by Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) crews to help spot and clear leftover flood debris in cane fields across the Northern Rivers.

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery, Steph Cooke said the drones, known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), are proving invaluable to the ongoing clean-up and recovery effort.

“The flood event in February and March had such a devastating and widespread impact, including for many cane farmers who four months on are still finding debris strewn through their fields,” Ms Cooke said.

“Items like fridges, washing machines, gas cylinders, shipping containers and even a swimming pool are being found in cane fields across the Northern Rivers. This sort of debris could damage farming equipment like harvesters and risk ruining harvest season activities, which is the last thing our growers need after being impacted by the floods.

“The waters may have receded months ago but the recovery is ongoing and the NSW Government is committed to using any and all means necessary to the help the flood-affected communities of the Northern Rivers bounce back.”

Two teams of drone operators from FRNSW’s Bushfire and Aviation Unit have been in the Northern Rivers to identify and map the location of dangerous debris.

FRNSW’s drone found this caravan, left by floods in a Northern Rivers cane field.

FRNSW Deputy Commissioner, Megan Stiffler said it’s the first time the drones, purchased with funding in response to the Black Summer bush fires, have been used in the flood recovery effort.

“We conduct reconnaissance flights using smaller drones and if they identify dangerous or bulky waste material, we send up the larger RPAS’s which can pinpoint the size and location of the debris.

“Once we process the data, we can send QR codes to the cane growers, which then provide them with real-time maps of their properties, identifying where the obstacles are located.”

The growers can then remove the debris with the help of Resilience NSW and the Environment Protection Authority, she said.

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