My Beach

Lifesaving surveillance at WA beaches has received a significant boost thanks to a nearly $400k Lotterywest grant to support the expansion of Surf Life Saving WA’s drone program.

Initial state government trials in 2016 demonstrated the value of using drones for beach patrols by surf lifesavers; however, the rigorous training requirements to ensure operational compliance and the need to replace drones regularly had hampered the expansion of the Program.

Surf Life Saving WA General Manager of Lifesaving, Chris Peck, said the grant would not only assist with the purchase of the technology but also help train and equip WA surf life saving clubs to deliver these patrols in a safe, compliant and sustainable manner.

“One of the challenges is to have enough volunteers trained to enable clubs to deliver a sustainable drone program as part of their regular beach patrols,” said Mr Peck.

“This grant not only provides us with the opportunity to keep pace with and purchase the necessary technology but, importantly, to upskill our clubs to enable them to provide ongoing training for their members to ensure a pool of qualified operators to enable continuous delivery of the surveillance patrols”.

Lotterywest and Healthway CEO Ralph Addis said Lotterywest is all about supporting community participation, and by using the latest technology to make our beaches safer, we can ensure Western Australians can make the most of our coastline.

“Lotterywest is pleased to support Surf Life Saving WA with a grant of almost $400,000, which will ensure clubs around the State have access to the technology and training they need to be able to keep our community safe while enjoying our world-class beaches,” he said.

Existing surf life saving clubs currently operating surveillance drones include Esperance Goldfields, Port Bouvard, Secret Harbour, Coogee Beach, Fremantle, Cottesloe, North Cottesloe, City of Perth, Scarboro, Trigg Island, Mullaloo, and Quinns Mindarie. Additional clubs have also expressed an interest in delivering drone patrols.

During the 2021/22 season, drones performed 305 hours of surveillance over 127 patrols. They are a vital resource utilised at various community-based activities including abalone fishing sessions, open water swim events, and emergency response activities.

“We know that drones provide a localised surveillance service that complements the roles performed by our Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service, Jet Ski teams and clubs’ on-beach patrols,” said Mr Peck.

“At the end of the grant period, the expectation is that clubs will have developed the necessary resources and skills to deliver a sustainable and robust program at their club.”

The WA Government, through Lotterywest, supports community projects and events, helping to build a better WA together.