The scene through night vision goggles being tested by Coulson Aviation crew members. PHOTO COURTESY WAYNE COULSON

Coulson Aviation tests thermal technology in preparation for Australian fire season

Helicopters were on and around Sproat lake testing NVGs and thermal cameras this week

Coulson Aviation were testing night vision goggles (NVG) and thermal technology on their firefighting helicopters this week in preparation for a demonstration slated for the fire commissioner of Australia.

Coulson Aviation are the only commercial operator in Canada approved to fight fire at night, an operation they are taking to Australia in time for their fire season that begins Dec. 1. Wayne Coulson, president and CEO of Coulson Group, said he hasn’t found a province in Canada interested in utilizing night time fire fighting.

This week, two Coulson aircraft—a Sikorsky S-76 and a Sikorsky S-61—were on and around Sproat lake testing the NVGs.

“We did probably 30 loads out of Sproat Lake and a bunch of water sources around the airport,” said Wayne Coulson. “The reason we’ve been so focused on night operations is because there’s so many opinions on how to fight a fire during the day. We didn’t have the same push back on fighting fires at night.”

Advantages of fighting fires at night, Coulson said, are that the air traffic quiets significantly which results in less stress for pilots and less worry about running into another aircraft.

Coulson said they began testing thermal and NVGs in 2011, and their equipment is the same used in Afghanistan, Iraq and for military uses.

“We’ve been able to get approval through the U.S. government to utilize that type of technology in Canada,” Coulson said. “It’s restricted product that we have, so every set of goggles are registered with the U.S. government, so they know where they’re at.”

Coulson’s Sikorsky S-76, a command and control aircraft, is equip with a thermal imaging camera on the nose that relays video to a 26-inch flat screen in the back of the helicopter.

“The camera shoots in thermal so you can see all the images on the screen,” he said. “We have a laser in the camera so whatever we’re looking at we can point the laser and identify targets.”

Coulson’s Sikorsky S-61 fire bombing helicopter, that flies at 300 feet above ground, communicates to the S-76, that flies at about 2,000 feet above ground, where they want the water loads to go, via laser.

“Basically, we fire this laser beam the size of a car onto the hot spot where we want to bomb. You can see that through the goggle” Coulson said.

Coulson explained that they have two digital video recorders in the S-76 helicopter recording all the time, which he said is able to “measure the reward for the additional risk.”

“I probably have about 50 flight hours of filming fire. Using the thermal camera we’ll be more precise on knocking the fire out then we will by daytime operations,” he said. “This is probably our 15th trial at night that we feel is just as safe (as daytime firefighting).”

The videos will be used for after-mission debriefs that Coulson said they can provide to their customers who will be able to see the performance.

“Having the thermal imaging camera is going to be a significant advantage to the firefighting business.”

karly.blats@albernivalleynews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Capital Regional District is considering adding another dollar a year to the parkland acquisition fund fee for homeowners. (Black Press Media file photo)
One dollar or two? Greater Victoria parks acquisition fee hike spurs debate

$2 a year too steep, CRD committee recommends $1 a year increase per household

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

Patrol officers from VicPD’s Esquimalt division responded to a call about hateful graffiti in Macaulay Park Wednesday evening. (Black Press Media file photo)
Anti-Semitic, hate-based graffiti found in Esquimalt park

Police seek suspects after fresh hate-based graffiti found Wednesday evening

Alyssa Gerwing, executive director of the Sidney Museum and Archives, gets into the Halloween spirit with a lit-up jack-o-lantern. With Treat Street cancelled, the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society has organized a series of other events and activities under the heading of Halloween Spooktacular. (Wolfgang Depner/News Staff)
Sidney serves up ghoulish spills and thrills during Halloween

A virtual Halloween treasure hunt and scary drive-in movies among tricks and treats

Artists, activists and supporters stand at the ‘More Justice, More Peace’ mural in Victoria’s Bastion Square after the letter ‘S’ was painted over in black. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
ACAB removed from Victoria’s More Justice, More Peace mural

New message points to VicPD, City of Victoria for silencing BIPOC voices

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

MNP senior economist Susan Mowbray presents the State of the Island Economic Report on Thursday night to conclude the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s virtual summit. (VIEA image)
Not-so-rosy State of the Island report caps off virtual summit

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s summit took place online Oct. 27-29

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Allentown, Pa. on Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
POLL: How closely are you following the U.S. presidential election?

It may feel like it’s been going on forever but the U.S.… Continue reading

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

Pilot Kevin Maher participated in a flyover of a ceremony at the Cobble Hill cenotaph on Oct. 22 in a 1940 North American (Noorduyn) Harvard aircraft. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cobble Hill remembers lost military members with ceremony, flyover

Annual event commemorates those who died in non-combat roles

Most Read