Australia using drones and new tech to prevent shark attacks

drones to stop Australian shark attacks

The Little Ripper will keep a watchful eye over the beaches of New South Wales in the weeks to come. Photo: Courtesy of Westpac

In an effort to help curb shark attacks, Australia has started to demo two new technologies that utilize sonar and unmanned drones in hopes that the high-tech solutions will help reduce encounters with sharks that terrorized some of the country’s beaches in 2015.

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Rescue authorities in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) launched a new trial program this week that will use unmanned aerial drones equipped with cameras to identify nearby sharks and assist the beachgoers who may be threatened by them. There were 14 shark attacks in NSW last year, one of which was fatal. This pushed state authorities to call for new, innovative ways to patrol the state’s coastline.

As per the state’s $16 million shark strategy, the $250,000 drones known as “Little Rippers” will patrol the country’s waters carrying a “pod” tailor-made for assisting distressed swimmers and surfers in the ocean. That pod includes (among other things) an inflatable three-person life raft that can be dropped to those in the water.

According to NSW Premier Mike Baird (a surfer himself), the drones are “the future of rescue” in the country, and Westpac, the Australian bank backing the trial study, has its eyes on scaling the program to the entire country.

“The Little Ripper is the new, high-tech eye in the sky. There are 17 Westpac helicopters around Australia and we hope this is going to work really well and become another very welcome sight around the coastline,” Westpac Chief Executive Officer Brian Hartzer said of the drones. He noted that, if successful, roughly 40 drones will be made available to rescue operations around Australia.

NSW’s latest step to preventing shark attacks comes less than three weeks after starting a trial program of a device called the “Clever Buoy” at the world famous Bondi Beach in Sydney. As reported by SURFER, the Clever Buoys use sonar technology to detect and alert local lifeguards of the presence of large sharks swimming at the popular beach.

“The buoy uses a multi-beam sonar, which is a relatively new sonar technology, coupled with some software which is very much like facial recognition technology for marine life,” Craig Anderson, founder of the company that built the Clever Buoy told ABC News. “Anything that is greater than two meters and is self-propelled will be detected. The reason we made it two meters is because the history of shark attacks around the world tells us that, with anything less than two meters, you’re unlikely to die.”

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