October 27, 2020

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Detection system utilises AI to protect swimmers from sharks

A world-first shark detection system developed by Australia’s University of Technology Sydney is being used by an industry partner to identify sharks, raise alarms and provide greater protection for swimmers and surfers.

About the initiative

According to a recent press release, SharkSpotter uses image processing techniques, state-of-the-art sensors and software, and applies deep learning neural networks for object detection and classification.

The automated system for detection and identification of sharks, in particular, and marine life and objects more generally, was developed using cutting-edge deep neural networks and image processing techniques.

The system efficiently distinguishes and identifies sharks from other targets by processing dynamic video feeds as well as static images.

State-of-the-art deep learning algorithms and image processing techniques examine live video feeds in real-time to detect the presence of sharks and their potential threat to water users.

This delivers 90% accuracy in detecting sharks and distinguishing between them and other marine life such as dolphins, rays and whales.

It is also capable of distinguishing surfers, swimmers, boats, human beings and other objects.

The system will give an overhead warning to swimmers and surfers when a shark or a potential risk is detected, using an onboard megaphone attached to the drones.

How it works

In 2016, there were 26 recorded shark attacks in Australia, including two fatalities. This led to much public discussion about ways to improve safety for water recreation while preserving marine ecosystems.

At present, the Australian drone company Westpac Little Ripper is using artificial intelligence (AI) developed by the University to improve detection and identification of sharks.

The drones are battery powered ‘unmanned helicopters’ with autopilot capabilities. But more than that, the drones are loaded with the University’s software system for aerial surveillance.

The system does real-time footage and information can be relayed immediately to emergency services, beach lifeguards, and water users for appropriate decision-making.

This cutting-edge AI system developed by the University will create a positive impact on the public, making beach recreation much safer.

It will help make beach recreation much safer and is a major milestone in addressing shark attacks with very real ability to save a life.

SMART Drumlines

Meanwhile, a trial of up to 10 SMART drumlines was introduced in Newcastle, NSW in 2019, which added an extra layer of protection for beach-goers as well as minimise harm to sharks and other marine life.

OpenGov Asia reported that the trial for the Shark Management Alert in Real Time (SMART) drumlines happened from 1 February to 30 April 2019.

The drumlines were introduced across Stockton, Nobbys, Newcastle, Bar, Dixon Park and Merewether beaches near existing shark nets.

They were set 500 metres offshore every morning, as long as the weather permits it, and collected at the end of each day.

They consisted of two buoys and a satellite-linked communications unit, which was attached to a hook baited with a single mullet.

The North Coast and other parts of NSW have shown that SMART drumlines are a highly effective measure at intercepting sharks with minimal impact on the marine environment.

Moreover, SMART drumlines are a valuable research tool.

Sharks caught on them can be tagged and released alive, allowing the Department of Primary Industries to collect data about the population of sharks that use NSW coastal environments.

The data collected includes the sharks’ seasonal pattern of movements along the NSW coast.