Drones key to gathering intelligence

Drones capture intelligence in Mildura

13 December, 2016

Drones are being used across Victoria’s emergency management sector as part of a new trial to gather intelligence and provide timely information to support good decision-making.

Drones have been well-tested across the world but it’s their capability to capture data and intelligence to inform decision-making that is of interest to Victoria’s emergency management sector.

The pilot program is being used to test the capability of drones equipped with cameras and sensors, to provide real-time situational awareness to inform decision-making at incident, regional and state levels.

The drones can be fitted with different sensors that provide red, green and blue vision, infrared capability and 3D modelling.

Infrared cameras can be used to monitor fires at night time, examine soil moisture, assess water levels and the integrity of levies in floods while 3D modelling can be used at a street level to assess building damage.

Recent storms and floods in north west Victoria provided the opportunity to use drones out in the field to assess infrastructure damage, agricultural impacts and rising flood levels across Mildura and the wider Mallee region.

Three missions were conducted across two days to complete impact assessments and to provide a visual picture of the damage caused by the storm and flood waters.

Video and still imagery was captured and streamed live to the State Control Centre in Melbourne and the Incident Control Centre in Mildura to provide instant situational awareness and a common understanding among responding personnel and agencies.

The first mission was conducted in conjunction with Agriculture Victoria to gather intelligence about the damage to grape crops and to inform relief and recovery planning. Sensors on the drone were also used to assess ground moisture levels.

Mission two focused on deploying a drone along the Murray River to assess flood levels and potential impacts at more than 12 points of interest identified by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority.

Drone cameras and sensors were used in the third mission to capture infrastructure damage caused by recent extreme weather across the Merbein area.

New camera technology and analytical software was tested as part of the drone trial to assess its capacity, quality and accuracy in providing real-time information from the air back to inform decision-making back on the ground.

Drone technology will continue to be used on a trial basis across Victoria this summer to capture data and inform decision-making for a range of incidents including floods, hazardous trees, beach safety and fire.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has also established a panel of providers for remotely piloted aircraft systems giving Victorian Government agencies access to 28 different types of drones. DELWP will use the panel of providers to access a broad range of drone technologies for use in everything from land management, planned burning, wildlife monitoring and rescue.