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Firefighter drones concept idea

Report & Video by Ashley Fudge

Fleets of firefighters tackling major bushfires may be a concept that can become a reality, according to a mechatronics team in Australia.

They're working on the idea of autonomous aerial vehicles that do not need a pilot.

These drones would be controlled on the ground and would help in detecting blazes that could escalate and also drop water like the helicopters that they would be sharing the skies with.

Associate Professor Tristan Perez from the University of Newcastle said: "Fleets of fully autonomous aircraft could be used in the future to monitor bush areas for rapid detection of fire spots to reduce the firefighters' response time. The same aircraft could be used for personnel support by incorporating various sensors, communication capabilities and human interfaces for streaming information to improve situational awareness.

"Water-bombing helicopters could also be unmanned. These vehicles operate in low visibility, high winds, and with high chances of getting the buckets entangled in power lines. By removing the pilot we remove most of the risk," he added.

Drones are more synonymous with warfare or monitoring crowds during protests but it is believed they could be highly useful in emergency fire situations.

The mechatronics team is working with Technology Australia, Boeing and RMIT University on the project,

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