DRONE COVERAGE EXTENDED IN A BID TO BEAT SHARKS

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - TREVOR PADDENBURG

LIFESAVERS will dou­ble the num­ber of Perth beaches pa­trolled by drones this sum­mer as a new cam­paign is launched to ed­u­cate beach-go­ers on how to avoid shark at­tacks.

Surf Life Sav­ing WA used the un­manned aerial de­vices to boost sur­veil­lance at five Perth beaches last sea­son, help­ing lifesavers spot sharks, dan­ger­ous rips and swim­mers in trou­ble at Cottes­loe, Se­cret Har­bour, City Beach, Mul­laloo and Quinns-Min­darie.

To­day, SLSWA will an­nounce that an­other five beaches — Coogee, Leighton, Scar­bor­ough, Trigg Is­land and Port Bou­vard at Man­durah — will also have drones buzzing over­head this sum­mer.

In ad­di­tion, SLSWA is hop­ing to have drones in the sky over Meelup and Smiths Beach near Duns­bor­ough in the South West.

WA Fish­eries Min­is­ter Dave Kelly yes­ter­day an­nounced a range of new beach safety mea­sures, in­clud­ing:

A “SEA SENSE” cam­paign cost­ing $365,000 to ed­u­cate beach-go­ers on how to avoid shark at­tacks.

THE for­ma­tion of an in­de­pen­dent ad­vi­sory panel on shark sci­ence and mit­i­ga­tion tech­nol­ogy.

A PARTNERSHIP with Surf­ing WA that in­cludes ed­u­cat­ing surfers on de­ter­rents and pay­ing for drones and a new jet ski to pa­trol for sharks dur­ing events and com­pe­ti­tions.

A WHALE car­cass pro­gram to tow dead whales out to sea be­fore they wash up, where pos­si­ble.

AN en­hanced Sharks­mart web­site and a new smart­phone app that will pro­vide in­for­ma­tion and alerts.

Mr Kelly said the new ad­vi­sory panel, to be chaired by WA Chief Sci­en­tist Pro­fes­sor Peter Klinken, would eval­u­ate new shark mit­i­ga­tion tech­nol­ogy as it be­came avail­able.

“The fact that there have been four shark at­tacks on the east coast in the last six weeks just re­in­forces that there is no sil­ver bul­let when it comes to this is­sue,” he said.

“This is a dif­fi­cult is­sue that is not go­ing to be solved by one sin­gle mea­sure. We will con­stantly re­view the sit­u­a­tion and we will look prin­ci­pally to new tech­nol­ogy to make peo­ple as safe as pos­si­ble. As much as pos­si­ble we will act on sci­en­tific ad­vice.”

Mr Kelly said the partnership with Surf­ing WA in­cluded a $120,000 pack­age. Apart from buy­ing drones and a jet-ski, it would fund first aid train­ing tai­lored for surfers.

SLSWA gen­eral man­ager of life­sav­ing and train­ing Chris Peck said the drones were typ­i­cally used for a 20-minute flight every hour or when there was a shark sight­ing. He said they had proven an “ab­so­lute suc­cess”.

“We see drones be­com­ing a stan­dard piece of life­sav­ing equip­ment,” he said.

Eye in the sky: Drone trainer and op­er­a­tor Doug Simp­son. On pa­trol: Life­guards Trent Wool­ley and Lockie Ran­son are the hu­man face of beach safety. Pic­tures: Daniel Wilkins

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