DRONE COVERAGE EXTENDED IN A BID TO BEAT SHARKS
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