Drones are now being used to prevent shark attacks off the coast of Australia

drone kitesurfer great white shark
Elias Levy / Creative Commons
In what may be one of the most inventive applications of drone technology yet, the Australian government is using these flying nuisances (or novelties, depending on how you feel about them) to protect beach goers against shark attacks. As per a Wednesday press release, “Drones will be trialled and aerial surveillance boosted on the North Coast as the New South Wales Government fast tracks the rollout of its world-first $16 million shark strategy.” In efforts to protect natural marine life while simultaneously keeping swimmers and surfers safe, this new initiative will send these unmanned aerial devices over the water, where they’ll collect video footage with GPS coordinates and send them back to their operators, all in real time.

While helicopters are generally deployed during times of high shark threats, drones are much easier to launch, not to mention faster and less expensive. “There is no easy way to reduce risks for swimmers and surfers,” admitted Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair. But still, he noted, “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 initiatives were first announced in October, but this month marks the first time that the technology will actually be deployed and tested. In addition to the drones, the government is also bringing aboard smart drum lines, which will allow sharks to be “hooked, tagged, and released further out to sea.

While the first trials of the drones will be carried out today, the drum lines will be implemented next week, all in hopes that these renewed efforts will stymie the number of shark attacks the Australian government will need to address this season.

In a statement, Blair noted that his administration remains dedicated to finding “an integrated approach to working out a long-term solution” in terms of shark attacks. So if you’re planning a vacation to the Great Barrier Reef sometime soon, rest assured that drones are keeping you safer than before.

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