Like throwing a paper plane, 20 Regiment Royal Australian Artillery Bombardier Jarrod Logan launched a Wasp AE unmanned aerial system (UAS) from a paddock 20km south of Canberra, to survey blazing scrub in the Orroral Valley on February 6.

20 Regiment patrolled the smoky skies from 5am-9am each morning while fire threatened nearby homes.

By 8am Captain Shaun Montgomery was relaying a situation report to the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) planning team.

“MRH-90s, MH-60Rs and civilian aircraft were flying in the area all day from 9am and most of the night, but there was up to a seven-hour gap overnight when the fire wasn’t being monitored. The first details of where the fire had spread overnight came from reports back from crews on the ground,” Captain Montgomery said.

“We saw an opportunity to provide reconnaissance support and coordinated the airspace to enable operations during that early morning timeframe.”

Bombardier Logan said information from UAS patrols helped the ESA decide how to battle the fire.

“The Wasp AE is able to capture electro optical and infra-red imagery of the scene below,” Bombardier Logan said.

“We’ve been able to provide some really good product to help the ESA detect where the fire front is and decide how to best delegate their resources.”

He said the Wasp AE was normally used to assist with reconnaissance, so fire surveillance was a fitting use of the UAS.

“It’s great we’re able to use our unique skill set and equipment to help out in this time of need,” Bombardier Logan said.

“It feels pretty rewarding to make a difference in the community.”