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April 13, 2021

Shark safety solution or privacy pain? Have your say on drones

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Researchers at Southern Cross University have launched an online survey to gauge community sentiment about drones being used for shark surveillance, including opinions about their effectiveness and privacy issues.

Run in collaboration with the NSW Shark Management Strategy the survey will help shark management authorities determine how much to invest in drone operations in the future.

Drones have been deployed at NSW beaches for more than three years to monitor sharks and develop surveillance procedures in an effort to keep beach-goers safe following a spate of attacks in 2015.

‘Drones are increasingly being used by NSW Surf Lifesaving which patrolled around 30 NSW beaches using drones this past summer,’ said SCU researcher and PhD candidate Andrew Colefax who’s based at the university’s National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour.

‘We want to be sure that the decision-makers are presented with an overview of how the public feels about the use of drones on their beaches,’ he said.

Mr Colefax’s PhD research investigates developing drones for shark surveillance and beach safety. He is focused on developing shark surveillance procedures and improving detection rates of animals in the water.

Lead researcher Dr Debra Stokes, also of Southern Cross University, encouraged users of all NSW beaches from the Tweed Shire in the north to the Bega Valley Shire in the south to take part in the survey.

‘We want to know if beachgoers feel confident that drones work effectively. Do they understand the capabilities and limitations of drone surveillance on the open coast?’ Dr Stokes said.

‘We know drones are very effective at being our eyes in the sky above the ocean, but there are limitations. Does drone surveillance warrant more and continuing research to try and improve its reliability?

‘More generally, people may have concerns about privacy when it comes to drones. So while drones are an innovative and effective technology at the beach in keeping an eye on sharks, is our privacy threatened?’

The survey takes about five minutes to complete and isHa for users of beaches along the NSW coastline from the Tweed Shire in the north to the Bega Valley Shire in the south. To share your views, and make your opinions count, go to:


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  1. Considering that local Councils can use Google Earth to spy on properties, shark spotting drnes are hardly in the same league.

  2. Why would council spy on our properties using google earth unless you are sneaking in illegal developments or earthworks? Anyway, drones better than nets by a long shot.


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