Last years successful trial of shark spotting drones on the north coast has led to the announcement that they will be trialling the drones to provide beach safety surveillance over 15 beaches from the start of the October school holidays. This supports the suspension of the unsuccessful shark net trial over the last two years on the north coast.
The trials begin this weekend on the north coast and include: Main Beach Kingscliff, Byron Bay, Lennox Head, Lighthouse Beach Ballina, Evans Head, Yamba and Coffs Coast as well as other beaches towards and below Sydney.
The drones, more formally known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), are fitted with alerting devices and the ability to drop an inflatable rescue pod to distressed swimmers like they did earlier this year at Lennox Head.
The program will be funded through the $16 million NSW government Shark Management Strategy. Not only will it be used for shark spotting, but new alert devices fitted to the UAVs can be used to help evacuate swimmers from the water if required. Additionally, the technological advancements in the cameras and vision resolution will assist with shark species identification and research into the behaviour of marine life.
NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair said, ‘The vision will be delivered live back to the Surf Life Saving team at the beach, allowing them to spot any potential problems in the water as they happen, making it genuinely lifesaving technology.’
To supper the program they will also be training up to 300 lifesavers as pilots over the season.
‘If people can fly a UAV or want to learn to fly one, there’s now an opportunity for them to get involved and play a part in helping to protect people on our beaches,’ said Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce.
‘With the incredible rate of advancement in the technology, we may soon see this equipment operating on all our beaches in the very near future. The sky is the limit and may hold the key to reducing coastal drowning deaths.’
The UAVs will complement helicopter aerial surveillance already underway on the north coast.