A high-tech tool to monitor the state’s most remote locations and support land management operations has been successfully deployed for the first time.
Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) commissioned Entura to co-design and co-build a remote monitoring system dubbed ‘Big Bird One’ which is currently located in the Southwest National Park.
The device incorporates a weather station and camera to capture high-resolution images, and a communication system to send these back to a dashboard mounted to a portable robust structure. An auto-lock mechanism is fixed to the top, so it can be picked up and placed entirely by helicopter with no ground crews or assembly required.
Other features include a satellite terminal, typically used to support Wi-Fi on trains and buses, which is powered by a small off-grid solar power system to send high-resolution images.
Since installation, the equipment has captured images during daylight hours and weather readings at fifteen-minute intervals, delivering these back to PWS via satellite communications.
PWS Project, Assets and Procurement Manager Chris West said the new technology would be used to assess site conditions prior to deploying helicopters for track works and other operations.
The new device
“We are currently doing track works in the Southwest National Park and the camera and weather station allows us to check conditions in this remote area and decide whether or not works can safely go ahead,” Mr West said.
“It saves both time and resources and helps us manage the risks associated with accessing these remote and often rugged areas.”
Mr West said that although there were no immediate plans to further roll out the technology across the state, it offered significant operational flexibility over fixed installations.
“This device means we can readily monitor and safely service remote reserves within Tasmania in the most cost-effective manner possible. It’s a game changer for how we will manage remote sites in the future,” he said.
“Due to its self-supporting design, the device doesn’t require a concrete foundation or guyed lines. With a site footprint of about one square metre, this means it has a much lower environmental impact than a fixed installation.
“Along with the benefits for track works and general monitoring operations, it could be used for early bushfire detection and monitoring of active fires or fuel reduction burns. The auto-lock system means the device can be relatively easily repositioned without putting a ground crew in, according to the fire conditions.”
Of course, with new technology comes the need for careful consideration of how and where it is deployed. For this first deployment, the PWS undertook careful assessment of the risks and benefits of its use before approval was granted.
PWS manages more than three million hectares of land across Tasmania, which is about 40 per cent of the state’s land area.