Drones used to detect sharks along the Victorian coast

Drone footage from boat

Water sensors fitted to drones have been used to detect sharks along the Victorian coast as part of an emergency management intelligence-gathering trial.

The drone testing was conducted in partnership with Life Saving Victoria and was aimed at complementing the work already being done by helicopters to monitor public beaches and detect sharks, and follows an increase in shark sightings this year.

The two-day trial tested the capability of drones to operate from the beach or elevated. It included locations at Fairhaven, Anglesea and Eastern View and from a boat in the water at Fairhaven and Seal Rock near Phillip Island.

A series of different sensors designed for use in water environments were used on the drone to determine which was the most effective at detecting wildlife, which could cut through glare and which increased visibility from the angle of the sun.

The water sensors were also used to scan across a broad area before zooming in and focusing on visible objects to provide identification.

Although no sharks were detected during the trial, an abundance of marine life including seals and turtles were located and identified.

The trial found that drones fitted with water sensors provide a complementary and effective option to helicopters as a way to monitor and detect shark activity near public beaches.

Drones also enable a larger area to be patrolled, compared to helicopters as there are more of them, allowing for multiple locations to be monitored simultaneously.

The trial identified water sensor technology to be adaptable for deployment on both land and water, enabling greater flexibility in the way shark patrols can be conducted and information provided to community.

The use of water sensors in drones forms part of a broader Victorian trial that is using drone technology to capture data and intelligence to inform decision-making across the emergency management sector.

Drone technology will continue to be used on a trial basis across Victoria this summer to capture data for a range of incidents including floods, hazardous trees, beach safety and fire.