Hi-tech eye-in-the-sky solution offered for shark control
DRONES fitted with a live-video feed and shark detection system powered by artificial intelligence could patrol tourist hotspots on the Great Barrier Reef to improve swimmer safety.
Sharks that pose a threat can be detected in real-time by the shark-spotting software and swimmers alerted by a megaphone or alarm on the drone, experts say.
Drone expert Dr Karen Joyce said technology was a possible solution to protect public safety with non-lethal shark control measures.
"We'd focus on areas where people are, where there is the greatest risk,'' the James Cook University lecturer said.
"I don't think the idea is to have thousands of drones scanning the entire coastline.''
She said new machine-run algorithms can spot sharks and crocodiles in the ocean with a high degree of accuracy using visible light, contrast, shape and size.
But new legislation would be needed to allow drones to patrol beaches and reef sites, she said.
LNP Tourism spokesman David Crisafulli, at Trinity Beach in Cairns, said it was an obvious solution to the shark threat that was killing the Reef's $6 billion tourist trade.
"If this technology works, and it works well, the world is our oyster,'' he said.
The LNP plans to fund JCU for a $1m trial to develop shark spotting drone technology on the Reef.
Last summer, Australia's largest-ever shark spotting drone trial flew more than 8000 flights at 20 sites along the New South Wales coast.
The data showed a total of 370 sharks were spotted, it identified certain locations as shark hotspots, and revealed the peak month for shark activity was January.
If lifeguards spotted a shark they tried to identify if it was a threatening species - anything over 2m and a bull shark, tiger shark or white pointer, Surf Lifesaving NSW said.
If it was within 200m of swimmers they could sound an alarm on the drone itself to alert people of the danger.