Unmanned aerial vehicles, often known as drones, offer emerging surveillance technology that provides aerial surveillance of coastal waters and real-time vision of the area.

Since 2017, DPI has been trialling the use of UAV's to detect sharks at NSW beaches in collaboration with Surf Life Saving NSW.

SLS NSW-DPI Drone Trial 2019/20

Drones trials will continue along the NSW coast during the summer-autumn of 2019/20, as part of the NSW Government’s collaboration with Surf Life Saving NSW.

Following the success of the collaborative trials in 2017/18 and 2018/19, this summer will see drones at the following 18 beaches: South Kingscliff Beach, Main Beach Byron Bay, Seven Mile Beach Lennox Head, Sharpes Beach Ballina, Shelly Beach Ballina, Lighthouse Beach Ballina, Airforce Beach Evans Head, Main Beach Yamba, Main Beach Crescent Head, Flynns Beach Port Macquarie, Main Beach Forster, Birubi Point, Redhead Beach, Surf Beach Kiama, South Mollymook, Malua Beach Batemans Bay, Tathra Beach and Pambula Beach.The locations were jointly chosen by DPI and SLS NSW based on the outcomes of the other two trials and the operational aspects of SLS.

Drones are the next stage in the evolution of lifesaving technology.

With strong community support, Surf Life Saving NSW (SLSNSW), the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), and local SLS clubs around the State are working collaboratively to lead this world first trial to operationalise drones in NSW.

This is life-saving technology. The drones allow lifesavers to spot the risk and get straight to work to prevent a potential attack or drowning.  We are committed to improving water safety and reducing the number of preventable deaths in the water.

The purpose of the DPI Drone Shark Surveillance trials is to:

  • Gather more data on how drones can be used for beach safety and shark surveillance by beach authorities
  • Trial real time awareness and beach-based warning to swimmers/surfers of the immediate threat of a shark
  • Assist SLS in developing drones into standard operations, including marine hazard surveillance and assistance with rescues

Operation times will reflect the normal patrol hours for SLS of 9am - 4pm. The drones will be piloted by lifeguards during the week and lifesavers on the weekend.

Flights will be approximately 10-15 minutes long, unless hazards/sharks are identified, in which case flight times will be extended to assist with the management of beach users.

Depending on conditions, there will be a minimum of two flights per hour.

Some key stats from the 2018/19 drone trials with SLS NSW:

  • Covered approximately 25,000 km
  • Nearly 9,000 flights
  • Over 2000 hours of flying
  • Observed approximately 350 sharks
  • Evacuated beaches on 48 occasions

Schedule & Locations

Location

Patrol Dates

Days

Personnel

South Kingscliff

Main Beach, Byron Bay

Seven Mile Beach, Lennox Head

Sharpes Beach, Ballina

Shelly Beach, Ballina

Lighthouse Beach, Ballina

Airforce Beach, Evans Head

Main Beach, Yamba

21/09/2019 - 13/10/2019

19/10/2019 - 08/12/2019

14/12/2019 - 27/01/2020

01/02/2020 - 29/03/2020

10/04/2020 - 26/04/2020

7 days

Weekends

7 days

Weekends

7 days

LG's & Volunteers

Volunteers

LG's & Volunteers

Volunteers

LG's & Volunteers

Crescent Head

02/11/2019 - 15/12/2019

21/12/2019 - 27/01/2020

01/02/2020 - 05/04/2020

10/04/2020 - 26/04/2020

Weekends

7 days

Weekends

7 days

Volunteers

LG's & Volunteers

Volunteers

LG's & Volunteers

Flynns Beach, Port Macquarie

28/09/2019 - 13/10/2019

19/10/2019 - 15/12/2019

21/12/2019 - 27/01/2020

01/02/2020 - 05/04/2020

10/04/2020 - 26/04/2020

7 days

Weekends

7 days

Weekends

7 days

LG's & Volunteers

Volunteers

LG's & Volunteers

Volunteers

LG's & Volunteers

Main Beach, Forster

02/11/2019 - 15/12/2019

21/12/2019 - 27/01/2020

01/02/2020 - 05/04/2020

10/04/2020 - 26/04/2020

Weekends

7 days

Weekends

7 days

Volunteers

LG's & Volunteers

Volunteers

LG's & Volunteers

Birubi Point, Port Stephens

Redhead Beach, Lake Macquarie

28/09/2019 - 13/10/2019

19/10/2019 - 15/12/2019

21/12/2019 - 27/01/2020

01/02/2020 - 05/04/2020

10/04/2020 - 26/04/2020

7 days

Weekends

7 days

Weekends

7 days

LG's & Volunteers

Volunteers

LG's & Volunteers

Volunteers

LG's & Volunteers

Surf Beach, Kiama

South Mollymook

Malua Bay, Batemans Bay

Tathra Beach

Pambula Beach

30/11/2019 - 15/12/2019

21/12/2019 - 27/01/2020

01/02/2020 - 01/03/2020

Weekends

7 days

Weekends

Volunteers

LG's & Volunteers

Volunteers

Development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for non-destructive shark management and beach safety

Have Your Say - The use of drones for shark surveillance and beach safety

This research seeks to determine levels of public acceptability of drone surveillance at beaches along the coast of New South Wales. It will assist in determining the degree to which drones may play a role in future shark mitigation strategies and/or if further research and development into drone surveillance is required. The research involves the completion of an anonymous questionnaire that will take around 5 - 10 minutes.

All information gathered in the course of this study is confidential and your responses are anonymous. All data collected in this project will be held safely and securely at Southern Cross University for a minimum of 5 years after publication. Ethics Approval Number: ECN-19-054.

For feedback or comments, please contact debra.stokes@scu.edu.au or Andrew.colefax@scu.edu.au