If you didn’t know, Australia has been dealing with a major problem: shark attacks (although various sources claim that more people are being killed by encounters with kangaroos).
The Australian government tried some solutions like killing the predators or using nets to keep them out. Unfortunately, the first one doesn’t seem ethical at all and the second one doesn’t have a high success rate.
While deciding how to deal with this crisis, Westpac Little Ripper, an Australian company, started to provide modified commercial drones for various tasks. It didn’t take long before the AU government saw an opportunity in all of this. It took six months of trials for the idea to be implemented, but it might be worth it:
At the beginning of this month, some Australian beaches started to be patrolled by drones with cameras and AI image analysis software. The whole purpose of this equipment is to spot lurking sharks, at a faster and better rate than humans.
We already know that we are not that good when it comes to identifying the predators based on aerial imagery. The percent of accuracy rate is somewhere between 20-30% if we are talking about shark exposing. This is why a machine learning system is much better for this kind of task. After training it on labeled aerial videos of surfers, whales, boats, dolphins, swimmers, and sharks, the software seems to be 90 percent accurate at finding sharks and alert the beach. The drone uses a loudspeaker to warn the people if there is a shark in the water.
The Little Ripper drones are powered by gas, and they can fly for a very long time, which is a big plus, in contrast to their US $250,000 price. It is worth telling that the shark detection can work only when the weather is nice, and when they are swimming near the surface. The sharks that happen to be deeper are still, almost impossible to spot.
It is not clear whether this is a major or minor step because the risk of shark attacks is minimal. To give you a better view of the situation: in 2016, there were 26 shark attacks known as unprovoked, in Australia, which resulted in 16 injuries and 2 deaths. The number is relatively small when compared to the 120 people that drowned on the Australian coast, and the 1290 road fatalities from 2016. In this context, you might want to be worried more about other dangerous situations.
Still, we have to wait and see the practical results of this project. The drones may make the people feel safer, but the ocean is already a dangerous place, even without any sharks. The drones could offer more value if they were focused on people that are swimming too far away from the beach or even spot people that are drowning and drop lifesaving equipment. That might severely decrease the drowning rate.
Via: Lonely Planet