Home » Highlight » eVTOL UAVs to Take on Jaws as Shark-Spotters

eVTOL UAVs to Take on Jaws as Shark-Spotters

Think of it as a sort of "Shark Eye for the Beach Guys (and gals)."

tiger shark
By Albert kok - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8969258

It’s been 45 years since film director Steven Spielberg frightened beachgoers and boaters out of the oceans with his iconic, shark-fest thriller, Jaws. Now, scientists at the Benioff Ocean Initiative at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) may have found a way, using artificial intelligence (AI) and UAVs (drones), to spot sharks, track their movements, and alert swimmers, divers, and lifeguards before these prehistoric creatures can attack humans.

Dubbed SharkEye, the initiative is headed by Dr. Douglas J. McCauley, a marine scientist at UCSB and the enterprise’s director, in partnership with Salesforce AI Research, and computer scientists at San Diego State University.

Some scientists believe climate change has altered the sharks’ historical migratory paths, bringing more of them farther north than in the past. A ground-based pilot launches a drone about 120 feet (about 36 meters) high to traverse a preprogrammed path. A second drone follows a meandering route scanning the water below the surface.

Both UAVs send real-time video feeds. When a shark is detected, interested parties, such as lifeguards, surf camp instructors, or beachfront homeowners, get a text message. The message can come through social media channels or a shark report, similar to surf reports currently generated.

The video footage is uploaded to a computer model that can recognize great white sharks. Combined with other data, such as water temperature and other migratory sea life, the team hopes to be able to predict where sharks will present. This initiative will lead to a better way for species to share the ocean safely.

“The reality is, sharks aren’t going to change their behavior,” Dr. Chris Lowe, a marine biologist and director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach, told the The New York Times. “This data is more valuable in changing people’s behavior.”

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Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke is a California-based writer who is fascinated by the way technology changes our lives.