Shark surveillance and sea rescue just got more sophisticated.
A drone that can detect the aquatic beasts from the sky and drop down rescue pods to swimmers in distress will be deployed above coastlines as part of a trial in New South Wales, Australia.
The $180,000 unmanned aerial vehicle, dubbed the “Little Ripper,” will come equipped with a high-definition camera. The footage can be monitored from the ground, saving the costly expense of sending a helicopter into the air.
Scientists are also working on a software algorithm that will identify the kind of shark in the water, which can then be relayed immediately to emergency services, lifeguards and swimmers.
The drone’s rescue pod is adaptable to environmental conditions. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the marine version contains a life raft, locator beacon, shark repellent and medical equipment. It can also be used for land and snow emergencies.
The trial of the battery-powered, military-grade Vapor 55 drone was launched at the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter Base in Sydney on Sunday. It will initially patrol the coastlines of Newcastle, Hawkes Nest and Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, Mashable reported.
Fourteen people were attacked by sharks in the area in 2015. There was one fatality.
NSW Premier Mike Baird said that if the trial proved a success, then every surf club in the state will have access to the technology.
“Every now and then the future crashes in on today and I think this is one of those days,” Baird said.
Paul Scully-Power, Australia’s first astronaut, and philanthropist/founding president of the International Life Saving Federation Kevin Weldon developed the drone with Australian company Skyline. The trial was scheduled four months after the NSW government unveiled a $11.4 million program to combat shark attacks, via the drone and 4G listening stations.