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April 20, 2024

Drones could be used to spot sharks, says local pilot

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An aerial photograph taken from a drone recently showing two sharks in close proximity to a surfer. Photo Halden Boyd
An aerial photograph taken from a drone recently showing two sharks in close proximity to a surfer. Photo Halden Boyd

Amid a series of further shark sightings, some north coast surf lifesavers are considering using drones as a cost-effective way to spot sharks after a presentation at Lennox Head  Life Saving Club on the weekend.

The unprecedented number of large sharks seen in our waters continued yesterday, when a shark described as ‘very large’ was spotted at ‘Middles’, Hastings Point.

A shark, seen at nearby South Beach, Kingscliff, was thought to be a 2.5- to three-metre tiger shark.

And several sharks were spotted ‘in close’ at Angels Beach, Ballina, at around 10 am.

Two scientists from Fisheries are visiting the area, spotting and tagging sharks, and attempting to establish what is bringing so many so close to our beaches.

And amateur and professional pilots are continuing to make sweeps of our beaches.

But the high cost and intensity of such flyovers has turned the attention of some locals to alternative methods of shark spotting.

Great Eastern Fly-In media manager Halden Boyd.

First response

On Sunday, Great Eastern Fly-In media manager Halden Boyd and a licensed Evans Head drone operator demonstrated the use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) as an early warning system at Lennox Head Surf Club.

Mr Boyd said the drones could give a ‘first response’ to possible sightings and help to get warnings out at the beach immediately.

Once a shark had been sighted, secondary spotters such as Air T&G Helicopters and Aussie Air and the Life Saver Rescue Helicopter could be brought in ‘to pinpoint and monitor rogue sharks’, Mr Boyd said.

He described the plan as ‘very exciting, very cost effective and quick response stuff!’

But he emphasised that it was important the drones were piloted by licensed operators.

‘Being being licensed, [we can] operate them legally, and the drone we use has GPS co-ordinates in the monitoring to help get clubbies, the jet rescue boat and the secondary aircraft to the area which might be affected by a sighting,’ Mr Boyd said.

He added the drones had already spotted a number of sharks in the region.

‘Some of the footage we took Sunday a week ago at Evans Head [showed] two great whites getting very close to a surfer who ignored beach closures,’ he said.

Mr Boyd said Sunday’s presentation went well, with SLSC reps ‘from Yamba to the border’ given ‘a good insight into the new drone technology and the complex hoops you have jump through.’

‘As everyone gathered, it is not a case of going out and buying a drone, taking it out of the box and flying it,’ Mr Boyd said.

‘There are monitors, cameras and all sorts of things which need to be taken into consideration.

‘Also the use of them is not just about shark spotting. It is about getting to people quickly in critical situations like potential drownings, which dramatically increases the chance of getting to them and [potentially] saving their lives,’ he said.

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  1. Great. maybe they could use the same technology to spot cars on the highway. They kill about 2,000 times more people each year than sharks, right?


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