In its effort to protect people from possible shark attacks, the Australian government will utilize anti-shark drones to patrol its beaches and spot shark activities.

For years, researchers and marine biologists have dedicated time and effort to make shark spotting a whole lot easier. Coast guards were trained to find even the slightest shark activity from helicopters and aerial images.

Using aerial data, humans can spot sharks 20 to 30 percent of the time according to a report from Reuters. However, this is not enough to secure the safety of everyone who wants to enjoy the beaches of Australia.

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Anti-Shark Drones to Help Secure Australia’s Beaches

Last year, small, unmanned air craft (anti-shark drones) were used by the Australian state of New South Wales for a six-month trial period to monitor the waters surrounding southeast Australia–some of the most shark-laden waters in the world.

Now, after lots of testing, the drones will begin patrolling the beaches of NSW this September.

The anti-shark drones, dubbed as Little Rippers, were developed by the University of Technology Sydney’s School of Software in partnership with the company Little Ripper.

According to reports, the Rippers can fly for over two hours on a single charge. They will be powered by artificial intelligence and will provide live-video feeds to drone operators “who then use the shark-spotting software to identify sharks in real time and with more accuracy than the human eye.”

Researchers from University of Technology Sydney’s School of Software claimed that the anti-shark drones could boost the accuracy rate of spotting sharks to 90 percent from the typical 20 to 30 percent accuracy rate.

“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,” Dr. Nabin Sharma, a research associate from UTS School of Software said.

Apparently, the built in shark detection AI system plays a significant role in the efficiency of the Rippers in finding shark activities. The researchers have trained the system “to both look for sharks based on aerial videos as well as distinguish them from other life on the water.”

Other Benefits of Anti-Shark Drones

Aside from sharks, the anti-shark drones can also identify marine animals such as whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures. This could aid researchers in better tracking activities and populations of creatures in the ocean.

Furthermore, the Rippers are also expected to save helicopters valuable flight time–effectively cutting the cost of aerial patrolling, as well. The anti-shark drones will also hold beacons and life rafts to assist people in emergency sea situations.

“I guess the world has learned many years ago – defense in depth is the way to go. So this is one of the layers of the depth,” said Dr. Paul Scully-Power, a co-founder of the Little Ripper Group.

Currently, the developers of the Little Rippers are trying to create a ‘repellent’ that could be used by the drones to keep sharks at bay until rescuers arrive in the area of distress.

Just last year, Australia trailed behind the United States when it comes to the number of unprovoked shark encounters with humans, according to a report from the International Shark Attack File of the University of Florida.

Just recently, the Australian government was forced to deploy nets along its northeastern shores after a series of reported shark attacks. The controversial method earned the ire of environmentalists, citing that the nets are dangerous to wildlife.

People involved in this new initiative are now hoping that the anti-shark drones could at least augment the deployment of nets in preventing shark encounters. Instead of fencing off areas and blocking contact with other aquatic species, authorities are positive that the drones could help deal with sharks only when they become threatening to humans.

What other animals that threaten humans could be kept at bay with drones?

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