Drones to patrol Rockingham beaches for sharks

DRONE technology is to be trialled on Rockingham beaches this summer as part of the State Government’s shark hazard mitigation strategy.

Fisheries Minister Joe Francis said Surf Life Saving WA had received $88,000 to conduct a three-month trial of drone surveillance at a number of metropolitan and regional beaches.

“Drone technology has advanced significantly in recent years and it makes sense to test if it can be used effectively to make our beaches safer,” Mr Francis said.

Under the trial, a small drone equipped with a high-definition camera will stream live pictures back to SLSWA operators who will make real-time decisions based on the footage.

SLSWA Lifesaving Services Contract Manager Peter Scott said the drone would be used at the Secret Harbour Surf Lifesaving Club during the summer, but dates had not yet been confirmed.

“Our lifesavers and Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopters provide an invaluable service in keeping people safe, whether the risk is rip currents, sharks or schools of bait fish, which attract sharks,” he said.

“The trial will allow us to determine if drone surveillance can be implemented into our operations in an effective, sustainable and cost efficient manner.”

Each patrol will require two lifesavers to operate the service; one will be trained as a drone operator, while the other will act as an observer with a visual display.

Mr Scott said that approximately 10 volunteer lifesavers will be selected to undertake extensive training before taking on the role of drone operator during the trial.

“If the trial is successful, we hope a future drone program could encourage the public who are interested in drones to contribute to coastal safety by becoming a drone operator,” he said.