BEACHES across the Mid North Coast will be among up to 50 in the state to have UAV pilots employed to watch over swimmers and surfers through an expanded shark surveillance program.
Surf Life Saving NSW, with the support of the Department of Primary Industries, will provide UAV coverage in every coastal LGA in the state, with flights commencing 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 including Town Beach at Port Macquarie, and Black Head and Cape Hawke to the south.
UAV patrols will continue at Sawtell SLSC, Urunga SLSC, Macksville-Scotts Head SLSC, South West Rocks SLSC, Kempsey – Crescent Head SLSC, Tacking Point SLSC, Forster SLSC and Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest.
The cost-effective, non-invasive UAV technology has proven to be successful at keeping swimmers and surfers safe, while minimising the impact on marine life. Since the program commenced three years ago, the public response has been overwhelmingly positive, with people reporting greater confidence entering the water at locations where UAVs are operating.
“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 SLSNSW president George Shales OAM.
“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.”
Drownings at unpatrolled locations were a key area of concern highlighted in the recent NSW Coastal Safety Report.
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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