Drones keep eye on sharks

2016-12-13 06:01
A bronze whaler shark near Fish Hoek beach captured by a drone recently donated to Shark Spotters.  PHOTO: Shark Spotters/ WeFix

A bronze whaler shark near Fish Hoek beach captured by a drone recently donated to Shark Spotters. PHOTO: Shark Spotters/ WeFix

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Shark Spotters will use its new drones for increased and targeted surveillance off two of the city’s most “shark-friendly” beaches.

Tech entrepreneurs weFix have donated drones to Shark Spotters, and now teams at Muizenberg and Fish Hoek beaches can have better views of the sea than simply by binoculars and high-lying vantage points.

The donation includes training in operating the drones, licencing, insurance and maintenance premiums.

Currently, Muizenberg and Fish Hoek beaches each have mountain-based shark spotters who, to date, have only used binoculars and polarised sunglasses to look out for sharks close to shore. The drones will now give them additional range up and down the beach and out to sea.

Tracking support“The drones are aimed at being a supporting mechanism for the dedicated Shark Spotters,” explains weFix CEO Alex Fourie. “They do not replace any of the current processes and routines that Shark Spotters employ to safeguard these popular swimming and surfing beaches. Instead, the drones offer the advantage of being able to remotely investigate reports of shark sightings at sea, and more accurately identify causes of alarm and track the intensity.”

The drones will be deployed after a mountain-based spotter or a resident calls in a shark sighting.

“This is a fantastic enhancement of our programme,” says Sarah Waries, project manager of Shark Spotters. “What we expect is that the drones will ultimately improve the accuracy of our current shark flag system and of course, enhance safety when it comes to swimming and other popular water sports.”

The drone can stay in flight for up to 30 minutes before needing a battery change.

“Typically, shark sightings start in spring and peak during late summer,” says Waries. “We’re in no doubt that our organisation will benefit hugely over time by deploying and mastering latest technologies, and we couldn’t be more delighted with this partnership.”

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