Debra and Andrew are presenters at the Science Tent at the 2018 Splendour in the Grass festival and will be talking about their use of drones in research.
Debra and Andrew are presenters at the Science Tent at the 2018 Splendour in the Grass festival and will be talking about their use of drones in research. Elise Derwin

Are drones a good idea to keep tabs on sharks?

EVER seen a drone flying over the beach looking for sharks?

Southern Cross University wants to hear from beachgoers who might have spotted a drone in recent years at the beach to better understand the community's sentiment about drones being used for shark surveillance, including opinions on the effectiveness of drones and any concerns around privacy.

Drones were deployed at NSW beaches more than three years ago to monitor sharks and develop surveillance procedures in an effort to keep beach-goers safe following a spate of attacks in 2015.

The community is invited to share their thoughts about the research project through an online survey.

"One of the non-lethal approaches to shark mitigation, introduced in 2015, was to trial drones to look for sharks. Several drone research trials have been conducted since then," University's National Marine Science Centre researcher Andrew Colefax said.

"Drones are also increasingly being used by NSW Surf Lifesaving. This last summer Surf Lifesaving patrolled around 30 NSW beaches using drones."

The results of the survey will inform shark management agencies of the appropriate level of drone investment and outline further potential research directions.

"Southern Cross University researchers want to be sure that the decision-makers are presented with an overview of how the public feels about the use of drones on their beaches," Mr Colefax said.

Lead researcher Dr Debra Stokes, also of Southern Cross University, encouraged users of all NSW beaches from the Tweed Shire in the north to the Bega Valley Shire in the south to take part in the survey.

"We want to know if beachgoers feel confident that drones work effectively. Do they understand the capabilities and limitations of drone surveillance on the open coast?" Dr Stokes said.

"We know drones are very effective at being our eyes in the sky above the ocean, but there are limitations. Does drone surveillance warrant more and continuing research to try and improve its reliability?

"More generally, people may have concerns about privacy when it comes to drones. So while drones are an innovative and effective technology at the beach in keeping an eye on sharks, is our privacy threatened?"

The survey takes about five minutes to complete, visit www.facebook.com/dronesharksurvey or http://sharksmart.nsw.gov.au/technology-trials-and-research/drones#survey