FIREFIGHTERS have a new weapon in their battle against bushfires with drones now allowing them to scope out areas too dangerous for humans to access.

Fire and Rescue NSW has added two drones to its arsenal along with two custom-built mobile command centres and more than 180 mobile data terminals in fire trucks across the state.

The mobile data terminals will give firefighters in remote areas internet access to live weather information, maps of hydrants, electricity and drainage infrastructure and other useful tools.

Emergency Services Minister David Elliott received a first-hand demonstration of the new technologies at a display in Sydney on Monday.

"Firefighters are forced to make life and death decisions, under extreme pressure, and often with very little information," he said.

The drones will also be used to quickly and safely assess chemical spills and natural disasters.

FRNSW Commissioner Greg Mullins said the custom-designed mobile command centres were equipped with radio, live video feeds, high-speed internet and mobile phone communications, a weather station and outdoor wide-screen televisions.

"Each vehicle has high speed internet and a 100m wi-fi bubble which could be invaluable to communities cut off from technology following a catastrophic fire or storm event," he said.

"This new technology improves the information available for first responders and will ensure that we remain a world-class fire, rescue and hazmat service."

The announcement followed the launch of shark-spotting drone trials on New South Wales beaches last month.

The Westpac-sponsored trials will begin in Byron Bay, Hawks Nest and Newcastle before being rolled out elsewhere in the state.

-ARM NEWSDESK



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