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.

DPI is currently trialling the use of UAV's and tethered aerial surveillance platforms in several locations as a form of shark spotting, in collaboration with Surf Life Saving NSW.

Drone trials began in 2017 at beaches on the North Coast. Following the initial success of the trial, it has been increased to 18 beaches between Kingscliff and Pambula.

Drones will be trialled at Kingscliff, Main Beach Byron Bay, The Pass, Suffolk Park, Lennox Head, Sharpes Beach, Lighthouse/Shelley Beach Ballina, Evans Head, Yamba, Coffs Coast, Tacking Point Port Macquarie, Birubi, Redhead, Avoca, Kiama, Mollymook, Pambula, and Tathra.

The locations have been chosen based on the outcomes of the previous trial and Surf Life Saving NSW’s feedback.

The trials will:

  • 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 warnings to swimmers/surfers of the immediate threat of a shark; and
  • Assist Surf Life Saving NSW in developing drones into standard operations, including marine hazard surveillance and assistance with rescues.

Operation times will generally be 7.30am to 3.30pm mid-week and 9am to 5pm on weekends to complement volunteer patrol times. The drones will be piloted by lifeguards and lifesavers.

Flights will be approximately 10 minutes, unless hazards/sharks are identified, in which case flight times will be extended to assist with management of beachgoers.

There will be a minimum of two flights per hour. The trial will end in April 2019.



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