Dubbed the ‘Lifesaver in the Sky’, Surf Life Saving WA (SLSWA) is set to take beach patrols to new heights this summer with the commencement of a drone patrol trial.
The trials, part of the State Government’s $33 million shark hazard mitigation strategy, will be conducted at multiple beach locations commencing in December.
The drone patrols will be integrated into the existing traditional patrol services with the aim of developing an effective and sustainable surveillance operation.
Surf Life Saving WA’s Support Operations Manager Peter Scott said SLSWA had been monitoring drone technology for several years and were well aware of its capabilities.
“There have been several challenges in the delivery of such a program including the regulatory environment and cost efficiencies in rolling out a program across a State the size of WA. Through the drone patrol program we can foresee a time when drone surveillance is operational at our 30 Surf Life Saving Clubs throughout summer.”
Drone operators were sought from SLSWA’s volunteer surf lifesavers, with the response from members of clubs across the state overwhelming.
This initial trial saw 12 volunteers ranging in age from 16 to 66 selected, however with strong interest from the broader community the potential exists in the future to provide engagement opportunities for those not currently involved with surf lifesaving.
The volunteer surf lifesavers selected to participate in the trials will undergo extensive training to enable them to operate the small drones across a range of beach environments and conditions.
Former Australian Surf Life Saver of the Year, Rob Bates, who will be participating in the trials as a volunteer drone operator has welcomed the new technology.
“Surveillance is the cornerstone of what we do as lifesavers and the integration of this technology provides a new perspective on traditional surveillance methods,” Mr Bates said.
“This technology has the potential to be a game changer in the situational awareness it can provide for on ground lifesavers.”
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