Drone trials up and away

17 May 2016

As part of the NSW Government’s $16 million Shark Management Strategy to trial emerging technology to better detect and deter sharks, expanded trials of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or drone technology, are underway in Port Macquarie this week.

DPI Fisheries’ Senior Research Scientist Dr Paul Butcher said the trial will put different aerial surveillance methods to the test at the same time, to help determine the efficacy of all kinds of aerial surveillance in shark bite mitigation.

“Innovative drone technology is fast becoming a popular tool for surveillance measures across the world,” Dr Butcher said.

“The NSW Government has committed $16 million to the Shark Management Strategy with a special focus on new and emerging technologies.

“This week’s trial in Port Macquarie is the second time we have compared traditional aerial surveillance using an observer inside helicopters, to a drone flying the same path, at the same time.

“Drone technology feeds real time information with GPS co-ordinates back to the operator, and the trial will test the effectiveness of the technology and its role in shark attack mitigation.

“The trial means we’ll be able to compare the vision recorded during the trial and determine the ability of each technology to spot sharks.”

Recent aerial surveillance programs conducted along the NSW coast have shown to be an enormous success, helping alert authorities and the general public when a shark is posing potential danger to swimmers or surfers.

Since January alone, NSW DPI aerial surveillance contractors have cleared the beach 42 times along the NSW Coast, because of potentially dangerous sharks in close proximity to swimmers.

Year-round aerial surveillance is currently underway of a weekend on the NSW North Coast from Point Danger, Tweed Heads to South Ballina.

Aerial surveillance will also be extended to other regions of the coast right down to Twofold Bay during school holiday periods of maximum beach use.

“Sharks seen by the helicopters and deemed to be posing a potential danger to swimmers and surfers will be immediately reported to Police, as well as directly to local Surf Life Saving clubs and other beach authorities at patrolled beaches,” Dr Butcher said.

NSW Department of Primary Industries will also tweet the information via @NSWSharkSmart, and on the SharkSmart app.

Media contact: Sarah Wright (02) 6391 3686 or 0427 075 167