Australian Beaches Are Introducing Shark-Detecting Drones

Lee/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The government of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia has released a high-tech $16 million (US $11.6 million, £7.55 million) plan to address this year's flurry of shark attacks.

Last year, there were three shark attacks leading to two fatalities in NSW. Even before the beach holiday season in December, this year has already seen 13 attacks, including the death of 41-year-old surfer Tadashi Nakahara.

To tackle the issue, the NSW government is launching a wide range of newly developed shark mitigation technologies. They will spend $7.7 million (US $5.6 million, £3.6 million) of the total fund on surveillance and deterrence, while another $7 million (US $5.1 million, £3.3 million) is being allocated to scientific research on sharks and tagging.

A good chunk of money – $3.5 million (US $2.55 million, £1.65 million) – will go towards a helicopter surveillance program. New technology to alert citizens of shark sightings is also being invested in, with a $1.3 million injection into the SharkSmart app. Five “Clever Buoy” systems will also be deployed, which use sonar signals to spot sharks. The tagging of sharks will allow real-time 4G tracking with the help of 10 listening stations between Tweeds Head and Forster.

Starting this December, when the beaches are at their busiest, shark-detecting drones will also be deployed over the beaches. This follows on from California using drones this summer to deter shark attacks.

Along with this surveillance technology, six sites will trial eco-friendly barrier nets.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said: “We are proud to be the first jurisdiction anywhere in the world to adopt an integrated approach toward keeping our beaches safe.”

However, environmentalists have been skeptical of the new plan. Last month at a shark summit in NSW, Associate Professor Daryl McPhee said, “There’s a lot of impressive YouTube videos that shows various devices being able to deter a shark but as a scientist that’s not a scientifically definitive approach. No matter what’s used, it will not be 100% effective.” Other experts suggested the government shouldn’t “placate to people’s fear.”

Image credit: Lee/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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