Multispectral aerial drone technology developed by Western Australian company, Shark Alert, in collaboration with San Diego’s Advanced Coherent Technologies, for detecting sharks via remote sensing and aerial surveillance, goes live in Perth beaches this summer.
Sharks up to 10 m depth can be spotted and warnings sent in real time to swimmers. The cameras used in WA are different from their East Coast counterparts already in use along Sydney’s busiest beaches. These cameras are seeing beyond the visible spectrum, which is the secret behind their deeper sighting capacity.
Traditionally, aerial surveillance by humans in aircraft has received widespread public support for identifying sharks from the air, over large areas. But it is labour-intensive, expensive, and independent scientific research has indicated detection rates of sharks is alarmingly low.
If a shark is more than 200 metres from the flight path, is directly beneath the aircraft or is more than 2.5 metres below the surface, the chances of it being seen are almost zero.
The trials used a model shark 2.4 metres long, shaped and coloured like a white shark. The model shark was towed behind a boat at the appropriate speed of the species at various depths.
The results were impressive. The model shark was detected 100 per cent of the time, even at a depth of 4.5 metres.
The trials clearly indicated the Shark Alert system had significant advantages over traditional human observation from the air, with a much higher detection rate over a much larger area, at much greater depth.
And this technology would significantly reduce costs when piloted remotely on a drone.
Cardno was commissioned to conduct the trials, and Senior Environmental Scientist, Dr Craig Blount is a globally recognised shark expert, based in Cardno’s Sydney office with the Water and Environment unit. Craig was the lead on this project and has worked across a number of cutting-edge research projects for both the public and private sectors into existing and emergent technologies for shark detection and deterrence.
In 2015, Craig was invited to address a global shark summit at Taronga Zoo in Sydney and in February 2017 provided evidence to an Australian Government Senate inquiry into the efficacy and regulation of shark mitigation.
“Different conditions along coastlines mean there is no single solution that could protect swimmers and surfers from shark bite,” Craig explained to the inquiry.
“Surfers using remote areas, for example, require a different solution to swimmers in crowded metropolitan beaches. Emerging technologies are worth investigating for their potential to provide some of these solutions and particularly as they will eventually allow us to move away from traditional approaches which can kill sharks, such as mesh netting and drum lines.”
Craig’s main message to the inquiry was that policy makers, when deciding on a system of swimmer protection, need to consider spatial and temporal coverage, as well as effectiveness.
“In populated areas, if protection is considered necessary, then the system must protect large areas and large numbers of people, be cost effective and durable enough to operate in local ocean conditions,” he said.