Shark-detecting drones to patrol Aussie beaches

SYDNEY • Drones equipped with a shark detection system powered by artificial intelligence will start patrolling some Australian beaches from next month in a bid to improve safety.

The battery-powered drones will provide a live-video feed to a drone operator who then uses the shark- spotting software to identify sharks in real time and with more accuracy than the human eye. Studies have shown a 20-30 per cent accuracy rate when people interpret data from aerial images to detect shark activity. Detection software can boost that rate to 90 per cent, said research associate Nabin Sharma at University of Technology Sydney .

Aerial videos of sharks from publicly available sources are used to train the system's algorithms and differentiate sharks from other marine creatures, surfers, swimmers and boats. It can then tag sharks and other marine life, such as dolphins and whales, in real time.

A series of shark attacks off Australia's north-east coast this year prompted the controversial deployment of protective nets to save lives and guard the country's reputation as a tourism destination.

Environmentalists say nets can harm wildlife.

The university began working on shark detection with Little Ripper Group, a commercial unmanned aerial vehicle firm, last year.

Company co-founder Paul Scully- Power said a life raft and emergency beacon can be dropped from the drone, and an electronic shark repellent is being developed.

Drones with the shark-spotter system can warn swimmers via a megaphone when a shark is detected .


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 27, 2017, with the headline Shark-detecting drones to patrol Aussie beaches. Subscribe