Shark-Spotting Drones Protect Swimmers

The new shark-spotting drones have been tested off the coast of Australia, where a record number of sightings has been recorded.

by Terry Smyth, dpa, Hamburg, Germany / November 25, 2015

(TNS) -- Shark-detecting drones began flights in Australia Wednesday, as part of a multimillion-dollar trial to give surfers and bathers better protection against the ocean predators.

The drones, the first of their kind, were being tested at Coffs Harbour on the north coast of New South Wales, the site of multiple shark attacks.

There have been a record number of shark sightings so far this year in Australia, and an estimated 31 attacks.

When a drone identifies a possible shark near a bathing beach, it sends a signal to a satellite which transmits an alert and image to lifeguards with the animal's GPS location.

The aircraft will initially be controlled by trained drone pilots and later by lifeguards if the scheme proves successful, a spokeswoman for the Department of Primary Industry said.

The drones could be flying over popular beaches in Sydney and elsewhere along the coast during the coming summer holiday season.

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said the trial was the first of several using new technology.

"Smart drum lines" will be tested next week, off the northern coastal town of Ballina, where a young local surfer was attacked by a bull shark earlier this month.

The drum lines send an alert after a shark is caught on the hook. The shark is then tagged, taken further out to sea and released.

"There is no easy way to reduce risks for swimmers and surfers," Blair said. "We are delivering on a commitment to test the best science available, including new technologies, as we try to find an effective long-term solution to keep our beaches safe."

The new measures will also include more underwater shark monitoring stations and increased helicopter patrols.

©2015 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.