Australia to Patrol Beaches with Shark-Spotting Drones

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Drone footage has captured sharks circling unsuspecting surfers and feeding on schools of fish—but the unmanned aerial vehicles will soon have a different shark-spotting purpose.

Australia’s beaches are going to be patrolled by AI-powered drones capable of detecting shark activity, reports Reuters.

Flying along the country’s beaches and coasts, the drones will transmit live captured aerial footage to an operator who will leverage an AI-enabled shark detection system to spot the large fish in real-time. The software—aptly named Sharkspotter—was developed by the University of Technology Sydney’s School of Software.

Dr. Nabin Sharma, a research associate at the School of Software, said Sharkspotter combines state-of-the-art deep learning algorithms and image processing techniques.

Studies show people are only 20 to 30 per cent accurate when analyzing data from aerial images to pinpoint shark activity, but the AI-powered software can triple the detection rate to 90 per cent, according to Reuters’ report.

The university explained in a press release that the software not only detects sharks, but assesses their potential threat to water users. Critical information captured by the drone can be relayed immediately to emergency services, beach lifeguards and water users for appropriate decision-making.

A megaphone attached to the drones can also be used to broadcast a warning to swimmers and surfers when a shark or potential risk is detected.

Australia experienced 26 recorded shark attacks last year including two fatalities. The university hopes their software will make beach recreation much safer.

Drone company Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver will start deploying the AI-powered unmanned helicopters in Australia this September.

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