Volunteers Going Above & Beyond for Disaster Relief

Remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) have come a long way since their conception and are now being used as vital tools to support incredible humanitarian efforts internationally. Advances in technology and training opportunities have seen groups of people push their remote pilot licence to courageous levels.

Fixed Wing for disaster relief

Team Rubicon Australia (TRA), a registered charity organization, have been harnessing the power of RPAS worldwide, including assisting our Australian Rural Firefighter Service (RFS) with the recent bushfires devastating the country.

The group operate as a disaster relief organisation, deploying volunteers into disaster areas to assist with relief and recovery operations. The volunteers that make up TRA are military and emergency services veterans who offer their skills to support impacted communities, while gaining back a sense of identity and purpose.

Team Rubicon was initially established in the USA in response to the Haitian earthquake in 2010 and the Australian branch launched in 2017. Within TRA operates the Aerial Damage Assessment Team (ADAT), formed in June 2018. The ADAT’s role is to undertake aerial mapping of areas impacted by natural disasters, which is primarily completed by remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).

Currently the team consists of 22 remote pilots, operating a combination of multirotor and fixed wing aircrafts. The team are responsible for the mapping of the disaster zone with the images they collect then compared to pre-disaster satellite images.

This data is used to assist with response and recovery, providing vital information to home owners, local authorities and emergency service agencies, depending on the nature of the event.


Drone surverying

Drone operations have been integrated into relief operations both in Australia and overseas, over the past 12-18 months and have provided invaluable surveillance and assessment options to the teams on the ground.

Aerial mapping using drone

The incredible skills and compassion of the individuals that make up the ADAT, coupled with the broad capabilities of RPAS, have meant an increase in scope and range available, specifically in large scale disaster. The integration of drone operations has meant invaluable surveillance and assessment options are now accessible and a better picture of damage and need can be achieved. TRA and ADAT have an accomplished history, having utilised drone operations following the Indonesian earthquake and tsunami in September 2018, the Queensland bushfires of 2018-2019 and landslide mapping in the Philippines in 2019.

Most recently they have deployed teams to assist with surveying and mapping with the recent bushfires in both New South Wales and South Australia, as well as previously assisting with bushfire efforts in Queensland bushfires in 2018-2019.

During these missions, ADAT were required to work in conjunction with the RFS to plan flight paths for safe operation as well as ensuring they did not impact ongoing firefighting efforts.

record keeping for Part 101 manual of standards

They were able to rapidly deploy their RPAS to complete mapping imagery that was then used to develop damage assessments to assist in the recovery process. The ADAT team are still currently deployed in NSW, Vic and SA undertaking ongoing post-bushfire mapping.

Remote Pilot Licence

Not only a useful resource during emergencies, ADAT have recently undertaken an archaeological project with the Mithaka Aboriginal Corporation and the University of Queensland, mapping 2000 hectares of indigenous sites, with the imagery collected by the RPAS shedding new light on the history of the area and providing invaluable information to archaeologists that was previously unavailable.

A future assignment will see the ADAT travelling to Papua New Guinea in May of this year to undertake mapping of the Buna-Gona battlefield, where 66 Australian servicemen are still missing following the second world war.

RePL training

TRA is a registered charity organisation, going above and beyond to help others by improving access to vital information, through the use of skilled volunteers. The importance of RPAS training to the success of this unit is undeniable; the information they are capable of collating is highly advantageous in disasters and difficult to access areas.

Aviassist is proud to be the trusted company for education and training, increasing the capabilities and success of such a valuable organisation.

Aviassist recognise the significant work conducted by TRA, and as part of Aviassist’s corporate responsibility to help the community, Aviassist offer complimentary RePL courses to supplement their available training budget, allowing more volunteers to receive their RePL.

“We’re always on the lookout for support, which is why we’re incredibly grateful to Aviassist for helping us to get so many of our remote pilots qualified.”

Learn more about how you can support Team Rubicon Australia here

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