AUSTRALIA – An Australia-first trial in Victoria will determine whether firefighting aircraft can be used to battle blazes at night, potentially saving lives.
The national trial, based at Ballarat Airport, combines technology including infrared systems and night-vision goggles with firebombing helicopters for the first time.
Lives and property could be better protected during major bushfires if the trial is successful, Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said.
“Fighting fires in the dark hours, in the cooler part of the night or in the early parts of the morning, would enable us to get on top of fires quicker, particularly those in remote parts of Victoria where access may be difficult,” he said in a statement on Monday.
“We are very keen to trial this capability, and understand how it would work in a system, and how we would fly and make it safe to do so.”
The trial, which has been approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, will involve two aircraft, including one which will drop water on controlled fires after dark.
Mr Lapsley said the results would be used to inform operations in other states and territories.
Firefighting aircraft could take to the sky at night by next summer in Victoria, if the test is successful.
Acting Premier James Merlino said Victoria was a global leader in firefighting.