01 Jan Shark Surveillance Using Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems
EVERY day this summer, Mark and Jackie Dujmovic drive to Redhead beach in the cool of the morning to search the sea for sharks.
“I basically follow a shark, locate it and photograph it for size,” Mr Dujmovic said, thumbs steering a four-propeller DJI Phantom aerial drone above the shallows.
“If we see a shark out there before 8.30am when the lifeguards start, we get out any surfers we can.”
The Port Stephens drone pilots, who are husband and wife, have never been more in demand.
Article by Tim Connell Newcastle Herald Full Story
In October, when the NSW government committed $16 million to preventing shark attacks, including a trial of surveillance drones on five beaches, the Dujmovices’ company Hover UAV won the contract for Redhead.
Then the government extended its drone trial before Christmas, the week the Dujmovices found in the Redhead surf the inky silhouettes of three great whites, prompting lifeguards to shut the beach. One sighting was on Christmas Eve. Now the hum of a drone past the old wooden shark tower is part of the clamour of the beach.
At 9.30am on Thursday it was already 33 degrees as Mr Dujmovic steered his Phantom 4, reputedly the best-value drone on the market, through hot gusts of wind.
Despite its look of a Nintendo Wii operated by a meticulous dad on Christmas morning, the Phantom was busily collecting data that will, researchers hope, lead to life-saving software that can guide drones on surveillance routes and help them find sharks.
Thursday was the Dujmovices’ first day of collecting data.
“A lot of surfers come up and tell their stories of when they saw sharks, in the old days,” Ms Dujmovic said.
“About how a helicopter would drop a roll of toilet paper to warn them.”
Today, the Redhead surfer’s shark warning is an air horn-blast from the drone pilots, followed by a well-drilled Lake Macquarie council lifeguard response.
The Department of Primary industries, whose helicopters share an increasingly cluttered Redhead sky with small planes and private gyrocopters, might then send a warning through its Shark Smart Twitter account.
A sighting from a helicopter shut the beach again on Friday, and a listening buoy off Redhead frequently pings its own warnings. The effect is a beach watched by an unprecedented network. A shark at Redhead can be detected in the water, from the sky or by a drone piloted from the beach.