Drones and Drum Lines to Help Protect Aussie Swimmers From Sharks

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With summer warming up the Southern Hemisphere in the coming weeks, beach-goers in New South Wales, Australia may soon notice camera-equipped drones buzzing above the waves. Part of an effort to keep humans and sharks safely apart along Australia's southeast coast, where several attacks have occurred in the past year, the drones will peek into the ocean off the coast of Coffs Harbour looking for sharks. The drones will send real-time, GPS-tagged footage of whatever life might be swimming in waters close to shore back to their operators, which will hopefully allow officials to alert swimmers and get them safely out of the water.

The project represents "the first of several trials that will get underway across the state’s beaches this summer as we take an integrated approach to working out a long-term solution," Australian Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said in a press release. "We are delivering on a commitment to test the best science available, including new technologies, as we try to find an effective long-term solution to keep our beaches safe."

In addition to the drones, two new "listening stations" for monitoring tagged sharks will be put into place, and helicopters will patrol the coast at least three hours a day. The government also plans to give a trial run to innovative new "smart" drum lines near Ballina. As Blair explained to the ABC, these drums are equipped with GPS-enabled hooks so that when a shark gets hooked, "a message is sent to our vessels and they'll attend those lines immediately. … So they're very different to the traditional drum lines which could have sharks sitting on them for days before they're checked." The sharks will then be tagged and released elsewhere. Blair called the technology "a bit of a game changer for Australia."

[h/t BBC News]