Byron lifesavers to pioneer drones for shark surveillance

SURFERS at Broken Head were urged out of the water on Thursday after an amateur drone operator spotted what looked to be a great white shark.

The very same day, surfer and president of business network Byron United, Michael O'Grady, confirmed a deal with Alstonville drone operator Jim Gowing for an unmanned air patrol trial for Byron Bay beaches.

If successful, Byron Bay would become the first drone-patrolled beach.

Mr O'Grady has been championing the use of camera-equipped drones to transmit vision to surf lifesavers since the fatal attack of 50-year-old Paul Wilcox in September last year.

The trial is expected to start in three to four weeks.

"Engaging with this technology makes sense. The cost of a full-time lifesaver to patrol the beach is $1000 per week," he said.

However, the cost of a drone would be $6000 over three years.

The Byron Bay dad said the idea was to trial the drone to patrol west of The Wreck, out along the bay, out to Wategos, Cosy Corner and back.

The footage would be relayed to lifesavers who would quickly monitor the vision as part of their regular work.

New drone technological breakthroughs have made the move possible, said accredited drone operator Mr Gowing, of Air Water Earth Vision.

The former lifesaver said a new waterproof drone model would be equipped with recent battery technology.

"It's only a trial. We are taking a safety-first approach to this. It may depend on conditions," he said.

As the drone would be Civil Aviation Safety Regulation approved, there would be no danger to aircraft as long as it was flown under 152m.


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