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Australian surfing comes with a danger of shark attacks | Jenny Brown / Flickr
Australian surfing comes with a danger of shark attacks | Jenny Brown / Flickr
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Australia to Use Drones to Spot Sharks

Picture of Peter Ward
Tech Editor
Updated: 28 August 2017
If you’re visiting Australia’s beaches next month and see drones flying overhead, try not to worry too much. These drones are not likely to be spying on you, instead keeping an eye out for sharks.

Beginning next month, a new program will see “Little Ripper” drones and artificial intelligence used to track Australia’s beaches for sharks, in an attempt to improve safety conditions for swimmers and surfers.

The drones are battery-powered and provide live video to an operator who uses shark-spotting software to identify threats in real time. Dr. Nabin Sharma, a research associate at the University of Technology Sydney’s School of Software told Reuters that people only have 20-30 percent accuracy when identifying shark activity from aerial videos. Detection software increases that rate to 90 percent.

“It’s not about replacing human beings all together, it’s about assisting human beings to get the work done in a better way with more accuracy. That’s what the application is meant for,” Sharma told the news agency.

The University has been working with Little Ripper Group since 2016, and began a trial last year. The Little Ripper drones will be able to warn swimmers when a shark is detected through a megaphone, and will start patrolling beaches from September. The company has also said that a life raft and an emergency beacon can be dropped from the drone and it is developing an electronic shark repellent.

Earlier in 2017, Australia installed protective nets designed to keep sharks away from swimmers, following a series of attacks, but environmental experts have said the nets could harm other wildlife.