It says something about the Australians’ love of the outdoors that surfing is still popular despite seemingly daily shark attacks. The Aussies are also being proactive about it: In New South Wales, the seas are now patrolled by this shark-spotting drone.
The drone will work like a miniature, autonomous version of regular sea-rescue helicopters. Called “Little Ripper,” the drone can fly for an hour on one charge and will carry video cameras which “it is hoped” can be used for shark spotting.
Little Ripper is a U.S.-made Vapor 55 drone and looks and works like a regular helicopter instead of the usual quad-copter drone design, which floats on four rotors instead of one. The unit was chosen for its similarity to a chopper. First, it’s more stable in cross winds, and second, “it just says rescue.” One of the brains behind the drone rescue trial, Australian astronaut Paul Scully-Power, also told the Sydney Morning Herald that any drone rescue vehicle “has got to look like a helicopter, fly like a helicopter and save life like a helicopter,” proving that he has a way with the catchy quote.
The drone isn’t just there to spot sharks. It can also perform rescues. The Little Ripper carries a pod which can be tailored for use on different terrains. The marine pod contains an inflatable raft and a tracker beacon that can be dropped onto anyone in trouble, to keep them out of the water until a manned chopper can reach them.
If the trial is successful and the costs of running the $180,000 drone are manageable, then NSW Premier Mike Baird thinks that “every surf club in this state will see the potential in this new technology and will want to have access to it.”