Integration, communication and innovation in aerial firefighting
What is the achievement you are most proud of in aerial firefighting to date and what innovation(s) contributed to it?
We are seeing many challenges come to life with the increasing ferocity and length of fire seasons. At the same time, legislations are crossing to try to promote better security measures. For this reason, technology must be an enabler, not an inhibitor. It must support our way of working.
Good technology should allow you to interact with multiple parties (agencies, operators, volunteers) in unison and work with a single view of truth. It should also allow you to capture good quality data that can provide superior insights and results.
One of TracPlus’ proudest achievements to date would be the integration of 28 different tracking systems into a single common operating platform for Australia’s National Aerial Firefighting Centre. The TracPlus solution brings together hundreds of aircraft and vehicles across different platforms and allows the agency to have a common platform to better dispatch and manage assets responding to wildfires. This allows the agency and operators to have ubiquitous knowledge of where their assets are, what they are doing and what needs to be done. This situational awareness provides useful data that enables more informed decision-making. And making evidence-based decisions is crucial, because operating on intuition just isn’t viable when lives are at stake.
The innovation of this system has been so successful that we have been able to duplicate the same approach in international markets and offer the same comprehensive benefits to other agencies around the world.
What do you think the future of aerial firefighting looks like?
We believe that information is not useful unless it provides you with better decision making, and that’s where the power of software comes in. As we move towards future, we find that technology is constantly evolving. What we’re seeing is a trend away from a monolithic style device where you have one box that does it all, and more towards an integrated, modular approach where the different devices specialize in delivering targeted parts of a larger solution.
Particularly in devices like the Trotter Datavault and the Airborne Mission System AFDAU-T1, where the migration of these devices from analog to digital means that customers no longer have to calibrate the devices to obtain data streams. information, and data capture is driven automatically without manual intervention. For operators, this process extends the life of their assets, mitigating the risk of having to remove and replace them every two years. As requirements change, you can add modular components to the likes of those requirements, rather than having to change the entire unit. So it’s really an evolution from the single box that does it all and more to little boxes that specialize in little things that play together really well and fit together well.
It’s not just the hardware, but also the TracPlus software system that has changed a lot over time since its debut 15 years ago. Originally, we created a security device to locate an asset in the event of a problem. We have now transformed the entire system into an operational dispatch tool that uses contracting agency location data to dispatch the most appropriate asset to a particular location.
All of this allows you to focus more on the job at hand. Prevent bushfires, save lives and save communities.