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How AI Is Being Used To Protect Sydneysiders From Sharks 

The increasing number of shark sightings in Sydney has raised questions about the effectiveness of using drones to spot sharks. 

Social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram often showcase drone footage capturing close encounters between swimmers and sharks.

More than 300 sharks have been observed annually through over 33,000 drone flights across NSW, leading to concerns about the risk of shark attacks. 

Listen the episode below to find out:

On today’s episode of This Arvo In Sydney, host Sacha Barbour Gatt and LiSTNR journalist Kim Braddish explored how drones can be used to minimise these risks for swimmers.

It has been over a year since the fatal shark attack at Little Bay. Diving instructor Simon Nellist died after being mauled by a shark while swimming near the beach. 
Dr Christopher Neff, a senior lecturer in public policy at the University of Sydney, said shark attacks were a specific sociological phenomenon.

You plant people’s fears; then you highlight those fears. The Little Bay incident, I think it was particularly upsetting. I hate to characterise animals negatively, but that was very bad,”

Dr Neff said.

In Australia, drones flown by skilled operators serve various purposes on our beaches, including identifying individuals in distress, aiding during floods, and detecting sharks.

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These operators undergo training to recognise specific shark species based on visual cues such as head shape, tail appearance, fin count, and other characteristics. 

Paul Hardy, manager of the Australian UAV Service department within Surf Life Saving NSW, identified the different species they searched around the water.

Dangerous species we’re looking at for bulls, whites and tigers around Sydney. They do tend to be bulls (bull sharks), probably due to the harbour river mouths,”

Hardy said.

Braddish also found that new AI based technology was being trialled in drones with longer range vision and bottom-mounted cameras. 

She said it would allow for a comprehensive risk assessment of an area, enabling a proactive approach to managing potential shark attacks.

Hosted by Sacha Barbour, This Arvo in Sydney is a 10 to 12 minute daily news podcast made just for Sydney! Listen now on the Listnr app.