SUMMARY: UAV's may provide a cost-effective solution toward helping to mitigate the threat from shark attacks off Australia's western coast. Drones will be used to monitor for shark activity, and also potentially spot other dangers such as rip currents and schools of bait fish which typically attract the predators.
PROBLEM: Shark attacks are a growing concern in Western Australia. Of the 23 shark attacks in the past 100 years, 14 fatal attacks have occurred since 2000. The most recent fatal attack was a 60 year-old university lecturer who was mauled wile diving with a friend in June. Some are claiming the Australian government has not taken appropriate action to mitigate the attacks. This is starting to dampen enthusiasm for some people to participate in ocean sports which will ultimately have a detrimental effect upon tourism.
SOLUTION: A $33 million Shard Hazard Mitigation strategy, including aerial and beach patrols, monitoring and tagging, beach enclosures, and research into deterrents and shark behavior, has been deployed to help combat the threat of shark attacks. Under the plan $88,000 will be provided to procure four small UAV's (drones) equipped with high definition camera to stream live imagery back to Surf Life Saving WA operators at designated beaches. The trial will run from November to January, and future funding will depend on the results.
"Drone technology has advanced significantly in recent years and it makes sense to test if it can be used effectively to make our beaches safer," said Fisheries Minister Joe Francis. "The trial will assess whether this eye in the sky technology can add value to the beach surveillance currently provided by helicopter and beach patrols."
Mr Francis said SLSWA would test the technology's capability against environmental factors, such as weather conditions and beach geography, and would be flown at beach events such as surf carnivals.