Drone technology mapping NSW flood debris


Cutting-edge drone technology is being used by Fire and Rescue NSW (FRSNW) crews to help spot and clear flood debris in cane fields across the Northern Rivers in New South Wales.

Two teams of drone operators from FRSNW’s Bushfire and Aviation Unit have been working in the area to identify and map the location of dangerous debris.

Steph Cooke, Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery, said the drones, known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), are proving invaluable to the ongoing clean-up and recovery effort.

“The flood event in February and March had such a devastating and widespread impact, including for many cane farmers who four months on are still finding debris strewn through their fields,” she said.

“Items like fridges, washing machines, gas cylinders, shipping containers and even a swimming pool are being found in cane fields across the Northern Rivers. This sort of debris could damage farming equipment like harvesters and risk ruining harvest season activities, which is the last thing our growers need after being impacted by the floods.”

Megan Stiffler, FRNSW Deputy Commissioner, said it was the first time the drones had been deployed in the flood recovery effort.

“We conduct reconnaissance flights using smaller drones and if they identify dangerous or bulky waste material, we send up the larger RPAS’s which can pinpoint the size and location of the debris,” she said.

“Once we process the data, we can send QR codes to the cane growers, which then provide them with real-time maps of their properties, identifying where the obstacles are located.”

Growers can then remove the debris with the help of Resilience NSW and the NSW Environment Protection Authority.

The state’s waste levy has been waived in many affected local government areas for the disposal of waste caused by recent storms and floods.

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