RESEARCH TEAM: Andrew Colefax and Dr Debra Stokes. mr Colefax is based at Coffs Harbour's
RESEARCH TEAM: Andrew Colefax and Dr Debra Stokes. mr Colefax is based at Coffs Harbour's Southern Cross University

Do you think drones make the best shark spotters?

FOLLOWING a spate of shark attacks in 2015 drones were deployed along NSW beaches to monitor sharks and develop surveillance procedures.

From shark surveillance to general beach patrol they are now a relatively common sight and researchers at Southern Cross University want to know what you think about them.

They've launched an online survey to better understand the community's thoughts on drones being used for shark surveillance, including opinions on their effectiveness and any concerns around privacy.

The study is run in collaboration with the NSW Shark Management Strategy.

"One of the non-lethal approaches to shark mitigation, introduced in 2015, was to trial drones to look for sharks. Several drone research trials have been conducted since then,” researcher and PhD candidate Andrew Colefax said.

Mr Colefax is based at SCU's National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour.

"Drones are also increasingly being used by NSW Surf Lifesaving. This last summer Surf Lifesaving patrolled around 30 NSW beaches using drones.”

The results will inform shark management agencies of the appropriate level of drone investment and outline further potential research directions.

"Researchers want to be sure decision-makers are presented with an overview of how the public feels about the use of drones on their beaches,” Mr Colefax said.

Andrew's PhD research investigates developing drones for shark surveillance and beach safety. He is focused on developing shark surveillance procedures and improving detection rates of animals in the water.

Lead researcher Dr Debra Stokes, also of SCU, encouraged users of all NSW beaches from the Tweed Shire in the north to the Bega Valley in the south to take part in the survey.

"We want to know if beachgoers feel confident that drones work effectively. Do they understand the capabilities and limitations of drone surveillance on the open coast?” Dr Stokes said.

"We know drones are very effective at being our eyes in the sky above the ocean, but there are limitations. Does drone surveillance warrant more and continuing research to try and improve its reliability?

"More generally, people may have concerns about privacy when it comes to drones. So while drones are an innovative and effective technology at the beach in keeping an eye on sharks, is our privacy threatened?”

This research project has approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee of Southern Cross University.

The survey takes about five minutes to complete. To share your views, and make your opinions count, go to: or

What’s got the Coffs Coast talking?

Premium Content What’s got the Coffs Coast talking?

From Glenreagh’s top dog to traffic lights at Woolgoolga.

Police nab P-plate drink driver after tip off from public

Premium Content Police nab P-plate drink driver after tip off from public

High range drink-driver dobbed in by member of the public.

Vote leaves airport hotel on the cards

Premium Content Vote leaves airport hotel on the cards

Cr Paul Amos failed in his bid to rule it out.