Canada is experiencing its worst year of wildfires to date, putting more stress on air crews and teams dedicated to battling the blazes.
A key element of fighting fires is early detection to prevent it from spreading. As an indispensable part of the effort, fire detection pilots often fly solo scanning vast forests for hours to detect the first signs of a forest fire.
For more than 75 years CAE has been a leader in developing training programs and technical innovations that help prepare those in critical roles, such as firefighting aircrews, to be mission ready.
“Our value is understanding the needs of the customer and leveraging our global network to design and develop capabilities that enhance operational readiness,” said Philippe Perey, head of technology, CAE defence and security.
In keeping with CAE’s overall objective to support people in mission-critical roles with immersive training and operational systems, CAE leverages technologies to join the fight against wildfires.
While this first line of defense navigates through remote territory looking for smoke on the horizon, what they spot can now be reported in real time using SkyDeploy, a satellite-enabled technology developed by CAE.
How CAE’s SkyDeploy helps detect wildfires
CAE has been supporting the dedicated team at the Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU) — a Quebec non-profit that provides forest fire protection and ensures forest sustainability — since 2010.
The partnership was forged because tracking wildfires across a land mass twice the size of Texas is no easy task.
CAE’s SkyDeploy includes a touchscreen on the dashboard and a satellite connection installed in the rear of the aircraft. It keeps pilots connected to SOPFEU and maps out a pre-planned route that zigzags across critical areas they identify using weather reports for lightning strikes and rain, as well as data already collected by SkyDeploy.
Sightings of new fires or areas already quenched by a downpour are then sent to SOPFEU headquarters so they know where to deploy their firefighting crews. The public can see the data they gather on SOPFEU’s website.
“The pilot’s role is to confirm that the fire they see is located where the fire is on the GPS,” said Perey. “When they identify a new fire, they mark it by flying across it, turning 90 degrees and flying over it again — basically making a big X in the sky.”
In addition to the tech, CAE provides real-time support to help new pilots use the equipment and keep it in good working order.
“Every year we have a debrief with SOPFEU and we’ve received very positive feedback,” said Perey. “This is critical equipment which I’m sure has helped reduce the number of fires and potentially saved lives.”
The next iteration of SkyDeploy will be a portable unit that will enable SOPFEU to create a bigger fleet of planes. Since this unit won’t be hardwired into the aircraft, the time-consuming certification from Transport Canada won’t be necessary. “It will be quicker to integrate,” said Dani Renzi, senior line of business manager. operational systems and in-service support.
And the success of this partnership is expected to lead to more developments down the road.
“CAE’s collaboration with SOPFEU is an excellent example of innovative solutions that can help save lives,” said Perey. “Our value is understanding SOPFEU’s firefighting challenges and then designing and delivering a unique capability.”
Whether it’s educating the next generation of fighter pilots or deploying wildfire detection technology, CAE is at the forefront of creating a safer Canada.