Shark Safety with Drones
As anyone following the industry can attest, drones are proving increasingly useful each day. Just recently they have been used as a surveillance tool for keeping people safe from predatory animals. In a specific case, David Finlay, a photographer, was trying out his new drone over the ocean in New South Wales, Australia when he spotted a shark lurking below the surface of the water where three surfers were lounging on their boards. As a surfer had lost a limb to a great white shark at a nearby beach, just last year, naturally he was worried about a similar outcome in this situation.
“I’ll be honest; it was quite a bit of panic. These are young surfers, and it was directly beneath them. I could see that it was right there. I felt a lot of concern for those guys,” said Finlay said to Global News. “They didn’t know what was going through my mind and the panic I was feeling for them! It was obvious they didn’t know what was swimming beneath them,” he said. As he was running down to the beach, he was relieved to see that [the shark] was moving away to a safer distance. Finlay said he stuck around a bit to inform other surfers that were coming out of the water of what he and his drone had observed.
Applying this use case to a greater scale, the government in New South Wales started an AU$16-million drone observation plan in 2016 to help identify and prevent shark activity. Footage of other close encounters between sharks and surfers were released earlier this year.
While spotting the sharks is one thing, they are still brainstorming ideas for how to them communicate that information to those surfing or in the waters. Finley had his suggestions as to what can be done using drones to help people reach safety in future situations. “Perhaps there is some sort of manoeuvre that a drone operator can perform, such as wiggling from side-to-side or rotating quickly. That if the surfers were to notice that they’d know that as a [universal] symbol, that any drone could perform, to let surfers know there’s potentially something dangerous beneath them.” With the popularity of consumer drones, even everyday drone enthusiasts could help swimmers become aware of any potentially harmful activity nearby.