DRONE: Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW Ben Franklin with local lifesavers and CEO of Surf Life Saving NSW Stephen Pearce.
DRONE: Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW Ben Franklin with local lifesavers and CEO of Surf Life Saving NSW Stephen Pearce.

Lifesaving drone trial to be extended

SURFERS and those enjoying the beaches are set to be a lot safer this summer following the announcement the Surf Life Saving NSW and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) drone trial will be extended.

The trial provides beach safety surveillance over 15 beaches, eight of which are located in northern New South Wales.

According to Surf Life Saving's announcement, the UAVs provide an extra set of eyes for greater coverage of dangers along the coast and a faster response to incidents at key blackspot locations.

The UAVs are fitted with alerting devices and the ability to drop an inflatable rescue pod to distressed swimmers.

Surf Life Saving NSW said the drones will become a "vital part of the arsenal of surf lifesavers this season".

The program will be funded through the $16 million NSW Government Shark Management Strategy after a successful trial last summer in Byron Shire.

The announcement said not only will the drones be used for shark spotting, but new alert devices fitted to the UAVs can be used to help evacuate swimmers from the water if required.

Additionally, the technological advancements in the cameras and vision resolution will assist with shark species identification and research into the behaviour of marine life.

Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson has welcomed the news, saying he is "stoked" Byron could have such a positive influence in how NSW responds to the shark challenge.

In a Facebook post, Mr Richardson announced the summer season will see The Pass, Suffolk and Main Beach enjoy drone surveillance carried out by the Surf Life Savers.

"We paid for and supported our own drone and other surveillance trials and advocated for this unwaveringly since the tragedies of a few years led our neighbours and the state to pursue horrendously destructive net focused responses," Mr Richardson said.

"Now, everyone is on board with drones and surveillance as an appropriate, effective and modern response."

From December 1 until January 29 next year, beaches will be monitored seven days a week.

These UAVs will be piloted by volunteer lifesavers and professional lifeguards, with operational flight times between 7.30am-5.00pm. Dependant on location, weather and day.

Flights will be approximately 10 minutes with a minimum of two flights per hour.

"Hopefully more will come and drones will become the permanent and widespread response to this challenge," Mr Richardson said.

Beaches monitored by UAVs include:


Main Beach, Byron Bay

The Pass

Suffolk Park

Lennox Head

Sharpes Beach

Lighthouse/Shelley Beach, Ballina

Evans Head