Drones to detect sharks
AI-powered drones to detect sharks in AustraliaGEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images

A swarm of AI-powered drones will be deployed to patrol Australian beaches and flag signs of sharks in real time, Reuters reports.

In the wake of a series life-threatening shark encounters, Australia has finally found a reliable way to track 'the ultimate undersea predator'. Starting this September, the country will see the deployment of AI-backed detection drones to identify sharks and save the lives of civilians stepping into deep waters.

Developed by Little Ripper, the new battery-powered UAVs will scan Australian seas to monitor possible signs of sharks and relay live videos to an AI-based system. This system will then combine the imagery to identify sharks in real-time. It is said to deliver results with 90% detection accuracy - a major improvement over manual operators who succeed only 20-30% of the time while detecting sharks.

The machine learning system has been fed with public, aerial videos of sharks to identify sharks and distinguish them from other marine life. It will not only identify the presence of sharks but also help marine researchers in keeping an eye on different creatures of interest such as dolphins and whales.

Although a manual operator will always verify results from the shark-spotting system, the drones have been bundled added safety measures to prevent miscalculations or an unexpected error in monitoring.

The system will initially warn swimmers with a megaphone call, but if the sharks are too near, it will offer immediate help by deploying life rafts and emergency beacons. The manufacturers are also working on an electronic 'repellent' to keep sharks away.

"It's not about replacing human beings altogether, it's about assisting human beings to get the work done in a better way with more accuracy. That's what the application is meant for," said Nabin Sharma, a research associate of the University of Technology Sydney, which laid the ground work for the system.