National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC)

The National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) in Australia supports aerial firefighting capabilities through its collaborative approach to resource management.

Bush-fires are part of Australia’s history. With multiple agencies and organisations throughout Australia involved in managing the ever-present threat of bushfires, the ability to share a common view of a rapidly unfolding emergency situation is essential to a well-formed response. The proliferation of independent tracking and mapping systems make such a coordinated national view difficult and expensive to achieve. TracPlus has provided Australia’s National Aerial Firefighting Centre with a cost-effective and proven solution to this problem.

Australia has one of the most consistently sunny and dry climates in the world. With summer temperatures that can reach over 45°C (113°F) and winds exceeding 100 kph (62 mph), unchecked bushfires can spread rapidly resulting in devastating loss of life and property damage costing hundreds of millions of dollars. At the peak of the bushfire season, up to 5,000 firefighting personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States fight the fires from the ground, with over 500 fire-fighting aircraft from over 150 operators available to support them from the air.

The Challenge

The number, variety and application of firefighting assets require careful coordination to achieve the most effective outcome. In recent years, significant gains in operational efficiency and effectiveness have been made possible through the real-time tracking and visualisation of all fire-fighting aircraft.

The Royal Commission into the 2009 Victoria bush-fires noted that “resource tracking is often a manual and time-consuming process. It is essential that Incident Controllers know the location of vehicles, personnel, equipment and aircraft so that fire management can be planned and directed and critical information, such as red flag warnings, can reach those on the fire-ground when they need it.”

The Australian organisation responsible for coordination of airborne firefighting contracts, the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC), had foreseen this critical requirement, and had issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a real-time tracking and monitoring solution that would make it possible for state, territory and federal agencies alike to share a common operating picture of fire-fighting aircraft.

The National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) in Australia supports aerial firefighting capabilities through its collaborative approach to resource management —and season after season, NAFC are on a mission to continue to find better solutions.


TracPlus and NAFC

One possible approach was to mandate a single tracking provider and require all airborne operators flying under NAFC contracts to use that provider. However, other contracts could require other tracking providers, and operators could be resistant to installing additional equipment for different contracts. Furthermore, the capital and installation costs would ultimately be passed back to the agencies using the aircraft, and the loss of market competition amongst tracking service providers could result in higher operational costs.

The “single-provider” solution appeared to be cost-prohibitive and unworkable.

TracPlus proposed a solution that allowed each operator to keep their existing tracking service provider, keep their preferred tracking equipment, and easily share their tracking data with NAFC and other agencies when operating on firefighting contracts. Moreover, this could be achieved with little or no capital outlay for all parties involved.

Australian Firefighting Aircraft Monitoring System (AFAMS) requires each operator to have a tracking device capable of delivering tracking and event data to TracPlus via their preferred tracking provider.

Any operator wishing to secure a contract with NAFC is required to use a tracking service provider who will deliver tracking data on their behalf to TracPlus. TracPlus is responsible for receiving, combining and delivering tracking and event data to all NAFC member agencies, in the formats requested by each agency.

TracPlus effectively acts as a single access point for tracking and event data relating to firefighting, while allowing competing tracking service providers to continue to engage in this important market.

Following a six-month trial that encompassed two states, three tracking providers and four agencies, TracPlus was chosen in 2009 as Australia’s national integration provider.

Gateway agreements were established with Spidertracks, Latitude, SkyTrac, SkyConnect, Guardian Mobility, IndigoSat, and Blue Sky Networks. 

Since 2010, TracPlus has provided seamless national integration of airborne firefighting tracking data with an increasing number of ground assets also being integrated since 2013.

“We know well the benefits of real-time tracking, having previously had various systems in place, but the adoption of a fully integrated national approach represents a great leap forward” Richard Alder, NAFC General Manager.

Working with TracPlus allowed NAFC to achieve a national tracking standard independent of hardware, software and tracking provider with little or no capital expenditure and further proving our goal at TracPlus: to make operator's lives easier and safe, in a cost-effective way.

"All the aircraft are equipped with standardised tracking and event reporting equipment, which reports into TracPlus — and TracPlus then makes this consolidated data available in a number of different ways to our customers. We need to do that because the customers all have their own unique systems and different data that they require."

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