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Queensland SharkSmart Drone Trial Final Report

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Mitchell, J. D., Scott-Holland, T. B., Argent, J., Emmert, K., Butcher, P. A., Meager, J. J. and Mikitis, M. (2022) Queensland SharkSmart Drone Trial Final Report. Project Report. State of Queensland, Brisbane.



Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, commonly called drones, provide a high-definition aerial view of a wide expanse of ocean, allowing the detection of potentially dangerous sharks in real-time, whilst having a negligible impact on the environment and non-target species. In addition, they are capable of spotting a range of marine hazards and can assist in beach rescue operations, thus providing numerous safety benefits for water users. The beaches of South-East Queensland (SEQ) have relatively good water clarity and a high level of visitation, making them an ideal location to test drones for detecting sharks and improving the safety of water users (Cardno, 2019). North Queensland beaches typically have lower water clarity, although it is important to test drones under these conditions to assess whether they can be effective at detecting sharks.

The Queensland SharkSmart drone trial commenced on 19 September 2020, as a partnership between the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ). The trial was part of the Queensland Government’s commitment to research and trialling alternatives to traditional shark control measures. Drones were operated at two beaches on the Sunshine Coast (Alexandra Headland and Coolum North), two beaches on the Gold Coast (Southport Main Beach and Burleigh Beach) and one beach on North Stradbroke Island (NSI; Ocean beach) between 19 September 2020 and 4 October 2021. Additionally, to assess the effectiveness of drones at detecting sharks under the different environmental conditions found at North Queensland (NQ) beaches, drones were operated at Palm Cove, Cairns and Alma Bay, Magnetic Island, from 26 June 2021 to 31 October 2021. Drones were operated on weekends, public holidays and school holidays by SLSQ pilots, with two flights per hour from approximately 8am until midday. Flights lasted 15 - 20 minutes and followed a 400 m transect behind the surf break. All footage was collected in 4K and securely archived for later analysis with key operational and environmental data collected for every flight. When a shark was sighted, the drone pilot lowered the aircraft to determine the species and size while estimating distance of the animal from water users. Data analysis quantified the numbers of sharks sighted at each beach and the rate of sightings as a percentage across the whole trial from 19 September 2020 to 31 October 2021. Generalised Linear Mixed Models (GLMMs) were applied to quantify the influence of environmental and operational factors on the sightability (probability of a shark being sighted) of sharks. The movement tracks of sharks were mapped to analyse their behaviour and identify if there was clustering of movements in certain areas. Sighting rates from drones were also compared with shark catch in adjacent nets and drumlines deployed as part of the Queensland Shark Control Program (SCP).

Item Type:Monograph (Project Report)
Business groups:Animal Science, Fisheries Queensland
Additional Information:This and other publications on Queensland Shark Control Program at https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/dataset/queensland-shark-control-program
Subjects:Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery resources
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery management. Fishery policy
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery research
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery for individual species
Live Archive:18 Jan 2023 00:32
Last Modified:18 Jan 2023 00:32

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