New South Wales has launched a $250,000 shark-spotting drone.
The new drone, dubbed the “Little Ripper”, was unveiled by NSW premier Mike Baird today at the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter Base in La Perouse and will be trialled for six months along the NSW coastline.
The military grade drone, designed to resemble a helicopter, will provide “aerial detection of sharks utilising real-time sensor and pattern recognition algorithms”.
The remote-controlled aircraft will monitor areas along the northern NSW coastlines such as Newcastle, Hawkes Nest and Byron Bay and share relevant data and imagery with police, ambulance and emergency services via radio.
The investment into unmanned and increased aerial surveillance is part of the NSW government’s $16 million shark management strategy after the state faced a spike in shark attacks especially along the north coast.
In December last year, the NSW government began its first drone field tests in Coffs Harbour, and has also begun using other technologies such as shark detection buoys, drum lines and tagging.
In addition to its shark spotting capabilities, the unmanned vehicle will also be deployed in search and rescue missions to deliver “lifesaving devices such as defibrillators, floatation devices, shark repellent and personal survival kits” to persons on land and water.
The drone, measuring just under 2 metres, can further be used in response to plane and train accidents as well as monitoring and assessing natural disasters including floods, cyclones and bushfires.
“The aim of this trial is to accomplish things with search and rescue that were impossible to even dream about 10 or 20 years ago,” said Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer.
“It offers exciting new possibilities to unite multiple emergency services in ensuring more effective and rapid deployment in critical search and rescue missions, including in the aftermath of natural disasters.”
It is hoped that if the trial is successful that the technology would be brought to every surf club in NSW.