Fire-spotting aircraft have played a vital role in fire fighting for over twenty years and large scale events such as the catastrophic 'Black Saturday' bush fires in Victoria, Australia in February 2009, have required innovative approaches to beat them.
Part of this innovation is the use of Cobham's cutting-edge satcom solutions such as the AVIATOR 300 to provide real-time snapshots of fire activity, making them a vital tool for the Victoria State Aircraft Unit's (SAU) fire fighting operations.
An initiative of the SAU Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), the SAU provides specialist aviation resources to satisfy fire and land management objectives in the state of Victoria.
The first Cobham AVIATOR 300 was installed aboard the SAU's Super King Air B200 by Inmarsat Gold Partner, TC Communications in December 2009, followed by a second AVIATOR 300 installation aboard the SAU's Cessna 404 Titan aircraft in February 2010.
Adam Damen, Technical Systems Specialist, Victoria's SAU explains: "For us, the AVIATOR 300 SwiftBroadband system means providing regular real-time snapshots of a fire zone, regardless of how remote the location.
"The system has also been designed to allow for remote access to fire data, enabling us to assist other regions with their fire fighting capabilities.
For example we sent one of our planes to Tasmania to assist with a small bushfire north west of Hobart. We were able to fly down, transmit the data and fly back to the mainland without having to land the plane.
This represented a huge success both in terms of the cost effectiveness of the mission and the capability it provided to collect and transmit valuable data," adds Adam.
The launch of Inmarsat's 'broadband-for-the-sky' service, SwiftBroadband, has been a key milestone, particularly for smaller aircraft communications.
It introduced significantly greater bandwidth capability and 'always-on' IP connection combined with the availability of compact, lightweight avionics.
As well as enabling fire activity maps to be delivered quickly, SwiftBroadband technology also enables Victoria's fire agencies to assist in planning for resources needed to fight fires.
Adam concludes: "The sophisticated level of intelligence provided by the Cobham AVIATOR 300 SwiftBroadband solution is imperative to our missions if we are to continue to protect the homes and lives of Australians when a bush fire strikes."
Improved Resource Planning
Australian bushfires continue to threaten and devastate the country's environment, but the ability for fire fighters to predict and prevent their movement will undoubtedly save lives.
While satcom onboard fire spotting aircraft can not completely prevent a fire from occurring, they are proven as playing a critical role in preparing fire fighters by providing them with access to valuable data that can be relayed to the ground station in real-time.
Victoria's SAU can rest assured that when the next bush fire takes its hold, they can rely on Cobham's AVIATOR 300 to give them a fighting chance.