The Australian coastguard is using drone technology to help them keep people safe from sharks.

The drone itself sounds, to a British ear, like it was named over a cold one in Erinsborough’s Waterhole – the Westpac Little Ripper. It could only be from Australia.

With onboard AI software called Shark Spotter, it does exactly what is says on the tin. Its advanced algorithm can distinguish a shark from other sea creatures with 90% accuracy. Considering that a human in corresponding circumstances only achieves 20-30% accuracy, this is an amazing accomplishment.

If the drone detects the presence of a shark it does three things automatically:

  • Informs the coastguard controller
  • Sounds an alarm to those in the vicinity
  • Deploys a floating device to those in the water

This last feature recently saved two boys who were caught within the sights of a shark and enabled them to float safely to shore on the tide.

The use of drone technology within this innovation is a classic example of a project which may fit the criteria for the UK government’s R&D tax credit scheme.

For the coastguard operator, this is a very efficient way to patrol huge areas of sea. They stay in one position and send the drone out for half an hour missions, every hour. Rescues must still be performed by actual humans.

Mitch Yates of the Australian Coastguard Service supports the addition of this new life saving tool: “It’s a whole other level of life saving equipment to just help to get to that patient quicker. In no way is it going to replace helicopter rescues. It’s just another bit of equipment we can use to save someone’s life potentially.”

In the future, technologists intend to develop the software so that it can also register signs of human distress. This would hopefully enable emergency services to get to those in distress more quickly.

Access to such amazing innovations may have helped Chief Brody secure the support of Mayor Vaughn, but would have been resoundingly ridiculed by Quint. Cue the next shark based horror film where sharks have learned how to make decoys of themselves to fool such technology, or have evolved to be able to turn it on the humans.

Do you use drones or AI in your industry? Its applications are being explored across many fields. Whether your investigations yield positive results or not, you are still entitled to R&D tax relief which can help fund the next steps…and there are always next steps. You can use our free research and development tax credit guide to learn more about the scheme or you can call us on 0330 0539 112 to speak to your R&D tax credit consultant.


Jamie Smith