DRONE DOINGS: This little item can take photos from a great height.

Photo Samantha Elley / Express Examiner
DRONE DOINGS: This little item can take photos from a great height. Photo Samantha Elley / Express Examiner Samantha Elley

Eye in the sky shark alert

HELICOPTER and drone surveillance will be back on northern NSW beaches just in time for the NSW school holidays.

Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair said both helicopters and drones would be taking to the skies to keep an eye on beach goers.

"For the first time, contractors are testing the use of a siren on a drone to alert swimmers and surfers if a shark is spotted nearby," Mr Blair said.

"Drones and helicopters have proved a very successful measure in protecting beach goers - last summer they spotted 571 dangerous sharks and assisted in saving two swimmers caught in a rip.

"We are committed to doing all we can to protect beach goers and one of the best ways we can do this during the busy school holidays is through our eyes in the sky."

From July 1, the fifth drone trial will get under way with flights taking place every day until July 16 at Lennox Head, Ballina, Evans Head and Byron Bay.

Helicopter flights will be in the air every day of the school holidays from Point Danger, Tweed Heads to South Ballina, and well as further south down the coast between Wooli and South Sawtell, from Nambucca Heads to Lighthouse Beach, Port Macquarie and Crowdy Head to Birubi.

Thirty-five SMART drumlines are also currently deployed between Ballina and Evans Head and complement the network of 20 VR4G listening stations, to provide real time shark alerts to beach goers via Twitter and the App when a tagged shark swims within 500m.

Director of Life Saving for the Far North Coast, Chris Samuels said the extra surveillance has previously been a great asset for making beaches safer on the North Coast.

"(They have) assisted with early notification for surf life saving resources," Mr Samuels said.

"It is a good sort of warning for those not swimming in patrolled areas and it allows surf life savers to focus on those patrolled areas with the DPI on shark surveillance."

Mr Blair said beach goers should keep an eye out for these helicopters, which are clearly identified with SharkSmart signage.

"Beachgoers can stay up to date through the SharkSmart app and Twitter during the break to make sure they are aware of what is happening at their local beach," Mr Blair said.

"The NSW Government's Shark Management Strategy is a science-driven, innovative project."


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