This year, Firefighting agencies across the country are battling a dramatic increase in the severity and frequency of bushfires due to the impact of the ongoing drought and adverse forecast weather conditions.

One of the hard working firescan operators inside one of the Learjets during a firescan mission. Firescan Image

You may be surprised to learn that on any given day or night, high above the raging fires, a unique, high tech “eye in the sky” keeps watch, working round the clock to provide critical fire intelligence imagery and mapping data to fire agencies.

This data provides an essential intelligence capability to assist incident management teams to plan and deploy tactical firefighting assets, 24h a day. So far this season Air Affairs aircraft have scanned equivalent to 50% of the total area of Australia.

The view from the operators console, firescan pod fitted to Learjet aircraft over a recent bushfire. Firescan Image

Air Affairs Australia has provided Airborne Bushfire Reconnaissance services throughout Australia since 1994. Since its first demonstrated capability in the summer of 1994-95, the service has been used extensively in this unique role.

Located in the Albatross Aviation Technology Park next to HMAS Albatross near Nowra with access to the airfield their aircraft are able to take off at short notice.

Air Affairs Australia special mission Learjet aircraft configured with Firescan Airpod under the wing, many of their Learjet fleet have been modified with hard points on the wings and special mission cabling and consoles. Firescan Image

Established as a crucial element in Bushfire intelligence gathering, Firescan captures line scan imagery of bushfire activity, delivered during both day and night-time flight operations, provide imaging of the ground, clearly defining active fire and burnt terrain through dense smoke.

With many of these fast moving bushfires, the need for rapid wide-area fire intelligence is logistically critical in supporting ground fire-fighting crews. The service also allows for monitoring remote area bushfires. Images are transmitted directly from the aircraft via satellite, to operation centres, for near real-time utilisation.

An example of multi-band Infrared imagery produced by the Air Affairs Firescan system. Firescan Image

Chris Sievers, Chief Executive Officer of Air Affairs Australia said, “It is personally inspiring to see the significant efforts our crew and staff undertake every year to provide and deliver this important service in a challenging environment. We are proud to support our Firefighting Agency customers in their critically important efforts to protect life and property. Firescan is an important part of our business, which we committed to 25 years ago with a vision of one day achieving a national and international service.

The Air Affairs team was established using aerial bushfire surveillance experts which I am extremely proud of. We must now grow together with the fire agencies to meet evolving environmental challenges, to make certain we continue to contribute to the community that relies so much on us. We are committed to work with governments, both state and federal, to contribute our part of an evolving national aerial firefighting fleet.”