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'Shark drones' to protect Australia beaches

29 August 2017

The technology, known as SharkSpotter, uses an algorithm to detect sharks in a live video feed recorded in real time by a drone (known as the Little Ripper Livesaver) flying above the water.

Little Ripper Group has also developed automatic water-activated electromagnetic devices that can be used to electrically shock the sharks and subdue them. That approach does not only help it identify sharks, it can also flag dolphins, whales and other sea creatures of interest, giving researchers an additional way to track populations. As Reuters reports, the drones are equipped with AI-powered software that can distinguish sharks from sharks, boats, and other marine life in real-time.

Along with helping to identify sharks, Little Ripper drones are also able to quickly act once a shark has been detected by playing a warning over a megaphone, and deploying a lift raft and emergency beacon if necessary.

After six months of trials, the latest and most robot-y idea is about to be implemented: drones will start patrolling some Australian beaches next month, using cameras and some AI-backed image analysis software to spot lurking sharks much better than humans can.

"It's not about replacing human beings all together, it's about assisting human beings to get the work done in a better way with more accuracy".

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The new drones will patrol beaches and use artificial intelligence to detect sharks in the water. Australia carries a significant brunt of that fear, as almost 31 percent of all recorded shark attacks worldwide happen in the waters surrounding the country, only outranked by the United States. Dr. Nabin Sharma, a research associate at the UTS, claims that their shark spotting software bumps up that accuracy to 90 percent. "That's what the application is meant for".

"I guess the world has learned many years ago - defense in depth is the way to go".

Earlier this year, Australia tried to implement protective nets that entangle the sharks.

Nets have now been deployed to prevent sharks from coming too close to swimmers. Environmentalists say nets can harm wildlife. Instead of fencing off areas and blocking contact with other aquatic species, authorities are positive that the drones could help deal with sharks only when they become threatening to humans.

'Shark drones' to protect Australia beaches