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The Sentinel VDS drone intends to stop shark attacks before they happen

For many beachgoers, there is always that fear of a shark attack in the back of their mind. Wouldn’t you feel better if you knew for certain if a shark was present? That is exactly what the Sentinel VDS wants to provide.

Sentinel VDS is a completely automated shark-detection system. Using an autonomous aerial system and sophisticated detection software, the system provides a safe haven for swimmers and surfers alike. The drone captures high definition footage while a computer processes it. If a shark is detected, an alert is given to warn ocean users of the threat.

More: Watch a pro surfer fight off a shark attack

While the project is still in its prototype stage, trials in Shark Bay, Australia have proved successful. The field test obtained a substantial amount of verified shark footage. In turn, this is then used to further improve on the system’s species detection algorithm. Basically, the more sharks the drone detects, the fewer times other species — such as a dolphin — trigger the alarm.

Technically, the camera technology can be incorporated in any aerial vehicle, but Sentinel VDS has been testing with a fixed wing prototype. This allows for better coverage and mobility. The entire system can easily be transported and deployed at any location. This makes it ideal for specific events such as a surfing competition.

The drone can survey an area of up to two kilometers squared, at an altitude of 100 meters. Within this area, it can make up to four passes within a two-hour flight. As propulsion technology advances, this two-hour time limit has the potential to grow.

After its success with concept testing, the device’s next step is technical implementation. First, Sentinel VDS must commercialize a semi-automated shark-detection system during 2017. Beyond that, it will be updated with more sophisticated automated systems throughout this year and 2018.

With each step exponentially growing in its ability to accurately analyze and detect, Sentinal VDS is fast approaching its concept of a fully automated service.