An army of drones could protect Australia from bushfires and help in alpine search and rescue efforts if a collaboration between the University of Canberra and technical engineering firm Tactical Research Pty Ltd gets funding.
For 18 months the teams have been working on their vision and in the coming months they will be collecting data to better the technology for these specific uses.
For bushfire tracking, the technology attached to a drone can pick up everything from temperature and wind direction, to fire spread and the direction it is travelling.
Emergency services have been using satellites to map bushfires, but they're not developed for that use and the information is useful but not ideal. The drones have the potential to map and predict the fire spread in real time, which currently takes hours of work.
Tactical Research founder and managing director Scott Russell said the project started with an ACT government innovation initiative to connect local businesses with researchers.
"That's what essentially seeded this project and made it financially possible to commence this work," Mr Russell said.
The initial stages of the project aimed to identify opportunities to solve real-world problems with field robotics platforms and the technology created by Tactical Research called Cognition.
It was then that they set their sights on the two goals of bushfires and search and rescue.
Mr Russell said previously, technology allowed robots like drones to capture and collect raw data like footage, but it could potentially take hours to analyse that data and make decisions based on that.
"It requires significant post-mission effort on the operator to turn that raw data into information outcomes," Mr Russell said.
"What we saw was the potential to do that on the drone itself, in real time."
The Cognition technology, he said, was designed for military application. It represents a new generation of field computer that is able to make decisions in the field on its own, on very low energy usage. All of that is contained in a device about the size of an iPhone.
For bushfires, Mr Russell said emergency services don't have the ability to access detailed mapping and real-time predictions, something this technology could achieve.
As for alpine rescue, Mr Russell said the technology could be used to look for stranded bush walkers in summer, and people potentially concealed under snow in winter.
Mr Russell said following the devastating summer of bushfires, drone technology will probably become "a more appealing solution".
University of Canberra associate professor Dr Damith Herath said rather than delivering pizza in Canberra, drones could be more useful on a bigger scale.
"Australia is best-placed to test something like this," Dr Herath said.
"They'd be kind of like little sentries hiding in the bush that come out from time to time."
He said: "Honestly if you compare all the pros and cons, I think pizza delivery drones are ridiculous compared to this idea."
While the idea might seem far-fetched to some, Dr Herath said he wouldn't be working on it if he didn't think it was possible to achieve.
"If the government and funding bodies put their wheel to it they will pioneer these technologies in Australia," he said.