Victoria’s EPA expects specialist drone pilots to take long flights in the name of the environment.

The environment department is putting together a panel of certified drone operators to see how the technology can help with environmental management, including back burning, pest management, erosion monitoring, and assessments of state-operated dams.

It wants to run high-intensity drone services with special approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), including beyond visual line-of-sight operations above CASA’s 400ft flight cap.

It also expects “high endurance” flight sessions of hours at a time to be necessary.

The panel will supplement an existing group in charge of more conventional drone services below 400ft.

The department says “improving aerial video and thermal imagery capability will assist [the department] to deliver more effective and safer planned burn operations”, and also hopes to save money by sending drones out to map bush roads and fire trails, sending back “geographically referenced” images of hazards like fallen trees or large animals.

The department wants unmanned flights to help prevent it having to send park rangers out to monitor or fix road blocks.

It hopes to start seeking tenders in coming weeks, asking successful bidders to collect high resolution images and videos, infrared and thermal footage from, plus LiDAR data and “orthorectified” (flattened terrain) images of the countryside.