Drone surveillance keeping swimmers and surfers safe this summer

Broulee and Narooma Surf Lifesaving Clubs will have extra help patrolling this season with drone coverage being provided in an expanded shark surveillance program employed to look after swimmers and surfers.

Surf Life Saving NSW, with the support of the Department of Primary Industries, will provide UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) coverage in every coastal LGA in the state, with flights beginning to coincide with the start of surf patrols by lifesavers and lifeguards.

The extension to this program will see over 200 pilots employed along the NSW coastline, predominantly in regional areas with these pilots expected to deliver in excess of 25,000 flights across the 50 locations. The additional 16 locations this year include popular tourist destinations on the far north and far south coasts.

Chief UAV Pilot Paul Hardy on Manly Beach, Sydney. Photo Surf Lifesaving NSW

Chief UAV Pilot Paul Hardy on Manly Beach, Sydney. Photo Surf Lifesaving NSW

A spokesperson for Surf Life Saving NSW said the cost-effective, non-invasive UAV technology had proven to be successful at keeping swimmers and surfers safe, while minimising the impact on marine life.

"We want to applaud the Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall and the NSW Government for committing to do everything they can to keep people safe by boosting UAV capability and we are looking forward to playing our part in the program," said .

"Alongside their primary use for shark mitigation, the UAVs are an additional tool to assist volunteer lifesavers and lifeguards identify other hazards such as rip currents, patrol outside flagged swimming areas and are an integral part of search and rescue operations," SLSNSW president George Shales said.

New to the program this year will be the trialling of technology designed to extend the reach of the UAV 'eyes in the sky', with long range endurance flight trials which could offer the possibility of exponentially increasing the coastal area covered.

SLSNSW will also be further incorporating Artificial Intelligence technology in UAV services to complement the skill set of pilots and extend capability along the coastline.

"We've shown this technology is here to stay and hope that with greater coverage we can save even more lives,"Mr Shales said.

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