Providing management & consulting services to the marine, diving and tourism industries since 2003.

Lifesaver drones will soon be auto-detecting sharks and shouting at swimmers from above

Drone technology seems to be exploding in two different directions: camera drones for aerial videography, and drones with AI deep learning capabilities for a wide range of different commercial and industrial purposes. The ability to get up high, take in a huge amount of visual and spatial information, and then have a GPU crunch it and do a lot of the work identifying objects, classifying them and deciding what to do about them holds great potential.

One application we didn't see coming is this, the Shark Spotter, a new initiative being tested by the Ripper Group out of New South Wales, Australia. In conjunction with local surf life saving services, the Ripper Group has been using a range of fairly serious-grade UAVs to assist with lifeguard duties.

Up to this point, the Little Ripper drones have spent a lot of their time on surveillance duties, looking for people in distress, either in the surf or on the beach. They've also been used to drop off emergency supplies like inflatable lifesavers, anchors, whistles and electromagnetic shark repellent devices.

From the shore, or even when you're out there floating in the water, sharks are more or less invisible underwater, unless they decide to go the full Jaws treatment and poke their top fins out of the water. The inability to really see what's happening underneath you is one of the reasons so many people have thalassophobia, or an intense fear of the sea.

But sharks are often very visible from directly above, so the Ripper Group is developing systems and algorithms that will give airborne drones the ability to constantly and automatically scan for sharks around surf beaches.

Training the devices begins by taking a bunch of drone footage from publicly available sources like YouTube, and manually teaching the computers what common objects look like – swimmers, surfboards, boats, sharks, waves and rocks, for example.

The computers will then start taking real-time video feeds from UAVs in the air, and start analyzing them looking for objects that meet the criteria for sharks, and generating alerts that lifesavers can then act on. This will help the developers iron out problems and increase the accuracy of the system.

In the final stage, the drones themselves will start packing their own inbuilt GPUs, probably along the line of NVIDIA's Jetson modules, and do all the processing in real time as they fly.

Once a shark is spotted, the drones have built-in loudspeakers that lifeguards can use to tell surfers and swimmers to get the hell outta there, and there's also the option of dropping shark repellent kits and other aids, as well as immediately being able to see where a shark strike occurs and get assistance to a bitten swimmer as soon as possible.

It's interesting to note that shark attacks are actually pretty rare. According to the Australian and International Shark Attack Files, there have been less than 500 fatal shark attacks since 1958, and less than 3,000 total attacks in the same period. This is most certainly one of those things where you're more likely to die falling out of bed.

But Australia and America, as well as South Africa, are most definitely overrepresented in shark death statistics, and at the end of the day, a system like the Shark Spotter drones could go a long way towards making people feel safer venturing out past the breakers. Even though the raw numbers of shark attacks are very low, the sheer terror these apex predators of the ocean can cause is very real.

View gallery - 3 images
Original author: Blain



Rate this blog entry:
Paige Alms on her Jaws victory and the future of w...


15 March 2017
I can just see Cousteau the father of diving turning in the grave. After the disastrous management of the Calypso by the late captain's last wife, now the last bastion of Cousteau's legacy Aqualung ha...
10600 Hits
23 February 2017
After the 20th shark attack off Reunion Island since 2011 occurred earlier this week, the world’s greatest surfer made a comment that “there needs to be a serious cull on Reunion and it should happen...
5850 Hits
23 May 2017
A Red Sea diving liveaboard had to be evacuated on Saturday, 13 May after what appeared to be a galley fire broke out. According to one of the 23 guests, who were left with few possessions between th...
3128 Hits
19 May 2017
PADI CEO Releases Statement on New Owners Story brought to you by DIVEMAGAZINE The Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) was sold in March this year to a private consortium known only a...
2355 Hits
19 May 2017
We take a look at the best diving movies of all time, from thrilling underwater epics to Hollywood blockbusters featuring incredible subaquatic scenes. The underwater realm struggles t...
2101 Hits
12 April 2017
March 15, 2017 at 9:19 PM Researchers have created a new model for predicting decompression sickness after deep-sea dives that not only estimates the risk, but how severe the symptoms are likely to b...
1840 Hits