Drone pilot reveals success of Tweed shark safety program
ENTERING the third year of its trial, Kingscliff surf life savers say their 'Big Brother' eye in the sky really is making the beach safer.
The Department of Primary Industries' Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) pilots use a drone to make flights across the Kingscliff Beach three times an hour to keep an eye on marine life like sharks as well as ocean conditions.
The safety measure couples with helicopter patrols to give swimmers plenty of warning if a dangerous breed of shark is spotted or comes within 400m of beachgoers.
The drone includes a loud speaker which can relay messages to surfers and swimmers further out to sea.
Surf Life Saving New South Wales DPI officer Angus Macphail, who is based at the Kingscliff SLSC, said this year drone patrols were seeing more marine life than ever before however this was due to more experienced pilots than an increase in animals.
"As our pilots get better and more efficient we are identifying more marine life," he said.
"Certain areas of the coast it is regular to see a shark multiple times a day.
"We always air on the side of caution. Our biggest motto as surf life savers is 'if we can't see you, then we can't save you' and the end goal is to be as safe as possible on our beach. We can see a lot more with the drone."
Currently there are 120 trained UAV pilots in the Far North Coast region.