Community News

Surf Lifesavers launch shark drones this weekend

Beachgoers in NSW can feel even safer, with surf lifesavers and lifeguards about to deploy drones across the state as summer looms.

Surf Life Saving NSW and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) have announced an extension of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) trial to provide beach safety surveillance over 15 beaches from the start of the October school holidays.

The UAVs will provide an extra set of eyes for greater coverage of dangers along the coast and a faster response to incidents at key blackspot locations.

Fitted with alerting devices and the ability to drop an inflatable rescue pod to distressed swimmers, the drones will become a vital part of the arsenal of surf lifesavers this season.

NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair said, “The vision will be delivered live back to the Surf Life Saving team at the beach, allowing them to spot any potential problems in the water as they happen, making it genuinely lifesaving technology.”

The program will be funded through the $16 million NSW Government Shark Management Strategy after a successful trial last summer on the north coast. Not only will it be used for shark spotting, but new alert devices fitted to the UAVs can be used to help evacuate swimmers from the water if required. Additionally, the technological advancements in the cameras and vision resolution will assist with shark species identification and research into the behaviour of marine life.

The UAVs will complement helicopter aerial surveillance already underway on the north coast.

The addition of UAVs to the beach safety toolkit is exciting volunteer lifesavers and provides another pathway for people to contribute to protecting their local communities.  UAVs will also provide great new opportunities for the wider community to get involved in Surf Life Saving, even if they don’t have a Bronze Medallion and are not active surf lifesavers.

Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce is confident the trial will provide tremendous benefits to the community and to the Surf Life Saving movement.

“We will training up to 300 lifesavers as pilots over the season,” he said.

“If people can fly a UAV or want to learn to fly one, there’s now an opportunity for them to get involved and play a part in helping to protect people on our beaches.

“With the incredible rate of advancement in the technology, we may soon see this equipment operating on all our beaches in the very near future. The sky is the limit and may hold the key to reducing coastal drowning deaths.

The trials begin this weekend on the north coast with other beach locations to follow. Locations include: Main Beach Kingscliff, Byron Bay, Lennox Head, Lighthouse Beach Ballina, Evans Head, Yamba, Coffs Coast, Tacking Point Port Macquarie, Birubi, Redhead, Avoca, Kiama, Mollymook, Pambula and Tathra.

For more information or to join a Surf Life Saving club in NSW visit www.surflifesaving.com.au.

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