Automated Flight Following (AFF) represents a technological cornerstone in emergency response, especially in wildland firefighting.
AFDAU-T1: Enhancing Precision in Aerial Firefighting Data
In the aftermath of catastrophic bushfires, Airborne Mission Systems forged a partnership with TracPlus and collaborated on the development of the AFDAU-T1
Following the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires in Australia, where over 18 million hectares were consumed, 34 lives were lost directly, and another 417 fatalities were attributed to bushfire smoke, the need for improved firefighting techniques has become more pressing. Over 9,300 structures were also destroyed during this period, from June 2019 to May 2020.
In the aftermath of this disaster, Airborne Mission Systems, an Australian company, has forged a partnership with TracPlus Global in New Zealand. This collaboration has resulted in the development of a groundbreaking additional telemetry unit (ATU), the AFDAU-T1 (Aerial Firefighting Data Acquisition Unit). This device has revolutionised the precision of retardant and water drops in aerial firefighting, providing critical data that was previously unavailable.
Aerial Firefighting Data Acquisition Unit (AFDAU-T1): A Solution to Inaccuracy
Historically, aerial firefighters have faced challenges with existing market solutions that lacked accuracy and reliability. The older systems necessitated frequent manual recalibrations, especially when changing buckets of different weights. Incorrect calibration led to inaccurate data reporting, a significant issue given the government's mandate for reliable firefighting event information.
These older systems were not only unreliable but also expensive, posing additional financial burdens on operators, particularly if they failed during peak firefighting periods. Calibration was a time-consuming and complex process, often taking over an hour for each bucket swap, a duration unfeasible in the midst of firefighting efforts.
Hence, the inception of AFDAU-T1.
AFDAU-T1 emerged from a collaboration between Zane Vohland, an Avionics Maintenance Engineer at Airborne Mission Systems, and TracPlus. The unit was designed to overcome the shortcomings of previous systems, offering more reliable and efficient data acquisition for aerial firefighting operations.
The Team Behind AFDAU-T1
Zane Vohland, along with his brother Levi and colleague Sam Hammond, formed the core team at Airborne Mission Systems (AMS). Their expertise ranges from avionics maintenance engineering to aeronautical engineering, crucial in the development and market introduction of AFDAU-T1.
Levi's background in approving aircraft modifications proved invaluable in developing the AFDAU-T1, which now meets both USFS and NAFC compliance standards. The device was rigorously tested and refined with real-world data, especially during challenging bushfire seasons, ensuring its reliability and effectiveness.
The Role of TracPlus in AFDAU-T1 Development
TracPlus played a pivotal role in the development and deployment of AFDAU-T1. Their expertise in communication technology was instrumental in transmitting the collected data effectively, making it accessible for government use. TracPlus's involvement ensured that the data captured by AFDAU was integrated seamlessly into the wildfire common operating picture, enhancing the strategic deployment of firefighting resources.
Government Focus on Data Collection
With increasing wildfire intensity and stretched resources, the importance of accurate data has escalated for both firefighting agencies and government bodies. The AFDAU provides crucial data, enabling a more strategic approach to firefighting and resource allocation. It helps create a comprehensive picture of firefighting efforts, aiding in more effective and efficient management of resources.
Expanding the Scope: Fixed-Wing Aircraft
The application of AFDAU has expanded beyond helicopters to include fixed-wing aircraft. Prototyping and testing with various aircraft types, including the Air Tractor, Fire Boss, and unique Dromader M-18Ps, have demonstrated the unit's versatility and effectiveness across different aerial firefighting platforms.
TracPlus: Global Leaders in Wildfire Data Integration and Operations
TracPlus stands at the forefront of wildfire data common operating platforms, establishing itself as a global leader in the domain. Renowned for its significant impact, particularly in Australia, TracPlus has been a critical factor in the development and success of the AFDAU-T1. The collaboration between TracPlus and Airborne Mission Systems extends traditional boundaries, integrating cutting-edge technology with real-time data analytics to revolutionise aerial firefighting operations.
This partnership exemplifies TracPlus's commitment to innovation, safety, and reliability in emergency services. By refining and co-developing the AFDAU-T1, TracPlus has not only enhanced the tool's accessibility but also fortified its effectiveness for firefighting operators worldwide. The company's role in this endeavour reflects its core values and leadership in providing actionable insights and supporting swift, decisive actions in critical situations. TracPlus's expertise in creating comprehensive and dynamic common operating pictures for wildfire management solidifies its position as a vital player in shaping the future of aerial firefighting technology and strategy.
AFDAU-T1’s Impact on Aerial Firefighting
AFDAU-T1 represents a significant advancement in aerial firefighting technology. Its ability to provide accurate, reliable data in real-time is a game-changer in the industry. As operators prepare for future fire seasons, the deployment of AFDAU-T1 and its integration with systems like TracPlus heralds a new era in firefighting efficiency and effectiveness.