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Drones To Patrol Australia’s Beaches For Sharks

Australia is well-known for its beaches, but it’s also infamous for its many sharks. Shark sightings and attacks are fairly common in the Land Down Under, and now a new solution seeks to help keep beach-goers safe.

Starting next month, battery-powered drones will be monitoring some of Australia’s beaches. Assisted by artificial intelligence, the drones are the next step in improving safety in and around the waters, Tech Wire Asia reports.

The drones are called The Little Ripper Lifesavers, and serve as an advanced warning system that gives a live video feed to an operator. The operator then utilizes a software that can spot sharks to point out if there are any in the water, with much more accuracy than human eyes.

The software, called SharkSpotter, can reportedly detect the predators as the drone patrols over the waters. First developed using artificial intelligence and neural networks, the software makes use of a world-first algorithm that can correctly tell sharks apart from other marine creatures, and from boats and humans.

The system likewise uses aerial videos of sharks to train the algorithm to differentiate between sharks and similar-looking creatures like whales or dolphins.

A megaphone is attached to each drone, allowing it to issue a loud warning to swimmers if there are any sharks lurking in the area.

According to studies, people have a 20-30% accuracy rate when it comes to interpreting aerial images to look for shark activity. The software can boost that rate to as much as 90%, says Nabin Sharma, a research associate at the University of Technology Sydney’s School of Software.

Sharma adds,

It’s not about replacing human beings altogether, it’s about assisting human beings to get the work done in a better way with more accuracy. That’s what the application is meant for.

The university started the project in 2016, in tandem with the Little Ripper Group, a commercial UAV company. Paul Scully-Power, co-founder of the Little Ripper Group, said the drone is also capable of deploying a life raft and emergency beacon. “I guess the world has learned many years ago – defense in depth is the way to go. So this is one of the layers of the depth,” Scully-Power says.

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