Drones Could Be Used To Spot Sharks

Jun 6, 2016

Coastal researchers in Beaufort are developing a tool that can alert officials when sharks get too close.  Jared Brumbaugh has more on how drones could be used to spot sharks swimming near popular beach spots. 

Assistant Professor of the Practice of Marine Conservation and Ecology at Duke University Dave Johnston is currently using fixed wing and quad copter drones to study bonnethead sharks to better understand their role in the ecosystem. 

“We fly over these coastal waters, the drones collect imagery, and we’re able to bring that back into the lab.”

Part of his research involves refining the technology to accurately differentiate sharks from other marine life.

“You want to be confident that the technique you’re using is going to give you the right information. So before anything operational occurs, we basically have to calibrate the instrument to be able to do that.”

Johnston says it’s still early on in the process and more experiential work is needed.  But in three to five years, he hopes drones can be used to target sharks that come near popular Crystal Coast beaches.

“I kind of hope we would have a smarter drone that would be able to find targets of interest, and then send back that information to someone who might be a decision-maker on the beach, that would reduce the amount of processing time.”

Johnston says he also wants to improve the duration of drone flights.