Shark Spotting Drones Keep Beach-Goers Safe in Australia

Shark spotting drones

Bondi Beach, Sydney

Shark spotting and victim rescue would become a whole lot easier in Australia after the country decided to start testing drones for the purpose. Rescue authorities have begun utilizing one gadget in the beginning of 2016.

The mini-helicopter like UAV has been presented as a viable rescue option because of the efforts of Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Services. Currently, Westpac is funding the trial and making the utilization of the new technology possible.

The long-range drone worth 180,000 US dollars was initially tested in the end of February. Called “Little Ripper,” the drone is equipped with an HD camera, an advanced surveillance algorithm and a rescue pod. The pod contains medical equipment, a raft that’s big enough for three people and shark repellant, Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Little Ripper is powered by a battery and the drone can stay in the air for up to 150 minutes at a time. The highest speed that Little Ripper can reach is 100 kilometers per hour or approximately 62 miles per hour. It is a modified version of a military-grade drone called Vapor 55.

The drone is intended to be used both during the day and the night. It will be equipped with infrared technology, making it possible to spot sharks after the sun goes down.

There are some proposals that focus on using the drone to tag sharks. When the marine predators are tagged and being monitored in real time, the risk for tourists will decrease significantly.

After the testing period has ended, rescue authorities will have to announce their conclusion. If the drone’s aerial monitoring is effective enough, 40 more surveillance drones will be deployed to protect tourists.

According to New South Wales premier Mike Baird, drone monitoring can be considered “the future of rescue.” According to him, every surf club in New South Wales will sooner or later be equipped with drones to make water sport experiences a whole lot safer.

The drone test follows numerous reports about shark attacks that have been received in the period until October, 2015. Because of the increasing threat to tourists, the New South Wales government has announced the introduction of a 16 million Australian dollar strategy that incorporates the use of drones and 4G listening stations, Mashable reported. Sonar clever buoys may also be introduced to keep tourists and water spots enthusiasts safe.

During the test, the mini-helicopter drone will be used over Newcastle, Byron Bay and Hawks Nest beaches. After the results are announced, it’s possible that the trial would expand to other areas of New South Wales.


  1. says

    Another great & interesting application for civil drones. But again it is a field of use where I am sceptical. How is a (strong) wind influencing the drone’s performance. Say, the sharks mostly attack surfers and surfers prefere high waves & strong wind – isn’t there a problem?


    • Jesse says

      Hi Sebastian,
      You make a good point, but the drone in questions, the “Little Ripper” is actually quite big. It is big enough that it should be able to handle heavy winds quite well.

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