There have been countless attempts to keep surfers safe, from nets and drumlines to shark-deterrent wetsuits and, unfortunately, culling. But thanks to some innovative new shark-detection technology from the minds at University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and The Little Ripper Group (the guys behind Westpac's Little Ripper rescue drones), beaches might be a tiny bit safer this summer.
The SharkSpotter system — which has been years in the making and is ready to be implemented in the coming weeks — uses artificial intelligence to detect sharks in live video feed and images collected by Little Ripper's battery-operated drones. Working off UTS' algorithm and some state-of-the-art sensors, the unmanned aircraft can even tell the difference between sharks and other sea animals, boasting a 90 percent accuracy rate. Once a shark's been spotted, they'll be able to warn swimmers of the potential threat using an on-board megaphone and alert surf lifesavers and emergency services.
According to Chief Executive Officer of Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver, Eddie Bennet, the shark-friendly system is a total game-changer. "This smart algorithm gives us yet another capability in patrolling beaches which we have been doing regularly for almost a year," he said, calling the technology "a major milestone in addressing shark attacks with very real ability to save a life".
The SharkSpotter will be used to patrol beaches across Queensland and New South Wales from the start of the surf life saving season next month. Exactly where the drones will be deployed will change each week, with locations only confirmed on the Friday before the weekend. However, it's likely they'll be places around Byron and the north coast of NSW, and around the Sunshine and Gold Coasts in Queensland.