Andrew Colefax and Dr Debra Stokes.
Andrew Colefax and Dr Debra Stokes. Southern Cross University

Keeping an eye on sharks from the sky

DO you have opinions on the use of drones being used for shark surveillance regarding the effectiveness or concerns around privacy?

Researchers at Southern Cross University have launched an online survey to better understand the community's sentiment about drones to monitor sharks and develop surveillance procedures.

"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 at Southern Cross University's National Marine Science Centre, Andrew Colefax said.

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

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

"Southern Cross University researchers want to be sure that the decision-makers are presented with an overview of how the public feels about the use of drones on their beaches," Andrew 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.

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

Lead researcher Dr Debra Stokes from Southern Cross University, encourages users of all NSW beaches from the Tweed Shire in the north to the Bega Valley Shire in the south, to take part in the survey.

"We want to know if beach goers 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?"

To take part in the survey, visit Drone Shark Survey on Facebook or https://bit.ly/30S9iCJ



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