Australia Is Getting Anti-Shark-Attack Drones

If you hear a robot yelling, "SHARK," you should listen.

There are lots of ways to avoid shark attacks, the most effective being just to stay out of the ocean. But for those that simply insist on tempting the literal jaws of death swimming in our seas, the University of Technology Sydney’s School of Software is implementing a new drone-based system to keep you safe.

As Reuters is reporting, the university is teaming with public safety and rescue drone company Little Ripper to establish a fleet of unmanned autonomous vehicles that can patrol Australia’s beaches and spot sharks before they spook beachgoers. The drones will be equipped with special shark-detection software, which will help human spotters watching through a live feed. The software will also be able to catalog the number of sharks (and other large sea animals), which they are being taught to identify with preexisting aerial video.

Though shark attacks overall remain very rare, as of 2016, Australia had the second highest number of unprovoked shark attacks in the world, trailing only the United States. In response to a series of attacks along the northeast coast of the country in early 2017, a number of nets were installed to keep sharks out of areas frequented by tourists. The drone program, while more complicated, would be able to prevent unwanted encounters without disrupting the sea life. If a spotter caught site of shark near shore, for example, they could simply verbally warn nearby swimmers via a megaphone in the Little Ripper drone. So if you are swimming in the ocean and a flying robot begins screaming at you, you know what to do.

The drones are set to start their patrols in September 2017, but this is not the first time that aerial patrols have been used to attempt to cut down on shark attacks. In 2016, a group started using a small blimp for a similar purpose.