Drone trial extended for holidays after shark clears Newcastle beach

Drones monitoring redhead beach for sharks

[Editor’s Note: Drones will monitor Redhead Beach for four hours every morning until January 29th.]

This post originally appeared on http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/drone-trial-extended-for-holidays-after-shark-clears-newcastle-beach-20161220-gtfhmf.html.

A trial of aerial drones at Redhead Beach has been extended for the rest of the school holidays, after a drone found a three-metre great white shark swimming among surfers on Tuesday.

The NSW government announced in September it would contract private operators to fly drones from headland vantage points for an hour every Thursday, Friday and Sunday morning until mid-December.

But the drones will now sweep Redhead for sharks for four hours every morning until January 29.

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said helicopter shark surveillance would complement the drone patrols.

“The recent drone trials have shown that they are an effective tool in spotting marine animals in a range of environmental conditions,” Mr Blair said.

“This round of the trial will focus on advancing shark detection and comparing the efficiency and precision of predetermined flight path routes.”

Asked if the extended trial would add to the cost of the government’s $16 million Shark Management Strategy, a Primary Industries spokesperson said, “This drone trial was always part of the … strategy.”

Lifeguards shut Redhead Beach on Tuesday after a drone found a three-metre great white near surfers.

The drone’s operators told Lake Macquarie City Council lifeguards of the shark’s presence about 8.20am.

The operators blasted an air horn to alert the surfers, and lifeguards sounded a siren to clear swimmers from the water and shut the beach.

Lifeguard team leader Paul Stone said the council’s shark sighting protocol normally dictates shutting the beach for an hour, but lifeguards wanted to monitor the situation at Redhead for longer.

“Given the fact that it’s a larger shark and we had access to vision from aerial drones, we chose to err on the side of caution to clarify that it’s all clear,” Mr Stone said.

“[Sharks] usually head straight through Redhead. They don’t tend to hang around.”

The beach reopened about 11am.

Redhead beach has been shut a number of times in recent years after shark sightings, but there have been only two recorded attacks there in more than 80 years.

In 2012, Glen Folkard was attacked by a shark while surfing at the beach. It took a bite out of his upper thigh and his best surfboard before dragging him under the water.

Mr Stone said large swells are expected off the Hunter today and the rest of the week, and reminded people to stick to patrolled areas.

As well as Redhead, the shark drone trial will cover Lennox Head, Lighthouse Beach in Ballina, Main Beach at Evans Head, and Kiama.



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