Identifying water sources for aerial firefighting 

Creating a prototype of the Geoscience Australia DEA Waterbodies to create additional attributes to identify the latest date that water was observed in a waterbody, to help the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) for web mapping applications. 


The Challenge 

During active fire events the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) members dispatch aerial firefighting units via an online system called Arena.  NAFC members use a variety of data sources to identify locations for helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to access water from surface water features.  As such, current and accurate data about the location of surface water is critical in planning decisions.  



This project would not have been possible without the collaboration between NHRA (Natural Hazards Research Australia), NAFC (the National Aerial Firefighting Centre), Geoscience Australia, AFAC (National Council for Fire and Emergency Services) and CFA (County Fire Authority of Victoria).  


The Solution

This project supported the Geoscience Australia (GA) Digital Earth Australia (DEA) team to tailor data products to suit the NAFC needs to augment existing polygon hydrology waterbody data created from DEA with an additional attribute (or attributes) that identifies the latest date that water was observed in the waterbody. Through this, NAFC is able to use this updated information for web mapping applications. This project developed a prototype waterbodies product and demonstrated its use when integrated with NAFC’s web mapping applications.   



This project has raised awareness in the firefighting community about the DEA Waterbodies dataset as an example of how earth observation data can add value to firefighting efforts. It provides a proof of concept to firefighting agencies of how this data can be used, as well as supports operational use of the DEA service, demonstrating what is needed for operationalisation and how this can be achieved.   

Beyond the firefighting sector, the research may provide broader outcomes on the potential operational use for other parts of the emergency services sector, agriculture (dam monitoring) and land/catchment management. 



To learn more, contact Project Manager, Roshni Sharma, at