SharkSmart drones and education a boost for summer beach safety

Published Thursday, 17 December, 2020 at 04:30 PM

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities
The Honourable Mark Furner

A trial of shark-spotting drones together with the SharkSmart education campaign will boost safety for South East Queensland water users every day of the summer school holidays. 

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner said the SharkSmart measures are part of the Queensland Government’s commitment to reviewing and adapting the Shark Control Program in line with emerging science and community expectations.

“Following their launch in spring, shark spotting drones will continue to fly at five South East Queensland beaches every day over the summer school holidays thanks to a partnership between the Queensland Government and Surf Life Saving Queensland,” Mr Furner said.

“Drones are an extra eye in the sky to monitor the ocean, enabling lifesavers to immediately warn people in the water if a shark or other marine threat is spotted.”

Shark spotting drones will operate at Coolum North Beach and Alexandra Headland Beach (Sunshine Coast), Main Beach and Burleigh Beach (Gold Coast) and North Stradbroke Island.

Drone pilots from Surf Life Saving Queensland will fly drones until 12pm every day until and including Australia Day 2021, subject to weather and wind conditions.

Drones can only fly in good weather conditions and away from restricted airspace near airports. Drone pilots rely on clear water to visually detect sharks using the drone camera.

Surf Life Saving Queensland General Manager of Operations Kaitlyn Akers said the partnership further enhances beach safety.

“Since launching in spring, shark spotting drones have flown more than 300 kilometres and lifesavers have spotted and monitored more than two dozen sharks,” Ms Akers said.

“The birds eye view of the beach from the drone camera allows us to keep a close eye on sharks and warn people in the water if needed.”

Opportunities to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into drones to boost detection of sharks are also being investigated as part of the trial.

“Scientists from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries are partnering with lifesavers to scientifically monitor the trial and determine the effectiveness of drones as an ongoing shark mitigation tool for Queensland,” Mr Furner said.  

The Queensland Government is doing its part to invest in the latest swimmer safety technology, but there is no single tool that can keep people safe in the water all of the time.

“We can reduce the risk through our program of nets and drumlines and investment in trials of new technology, but we can’t completely remove it. We need everyone to do their part every time they are on or in the water,” Mr Furner said.

“Doing your part and being SharkSmart means being responsible for your safety and the safety of others in the water.

“No matter whether you are swimming, surfing, diving, snorkelling, fishing or boating, follow the SharkSmart tips every time you are on or in the water.

“You will reduce your risk of a negative encounter with a shark and help everyone stay safe.”


Do your part. Be SharkSmart 

Swim between the flags at patrolled beaches and check signage

Have a buddy and look out for each other

Avoid swimming at dawn or dusk

Reduce risk, avoid schools of bait fish or diving birds

Keep fish waste and food scraps out of the water where people swim

Swim in clear water and away from fishers


For more information, search ‘SharkSmart Qld’ or call Fisheries Queensland on 13 25 23.


Media contact:        Ron Goodman          0427 781 920


File link to video footage of a shark spotted during the SharkSmart drone trial

This footage was captured on the morning of Wednesday 30 September 2020 at Main Beach, Gold Coast. The drone pilot closely monitored the shark, which was swimming away from surfers. Although the beach was not temporarily closed on this occasion, Surf Life Saving Queensland notified lifesavers at nearby beaches as a precaution.

Quick facts about the SharkSmart drone trial

As of 30 November 2020:

  • There have been 791 drone flights across the five beaches in the trial, flying a total of 316km with an average flight time of 18 minutes per flight.
  • A total of 27 sharks have been spotted by the drones, including six large sharks estimated to be more than 2m in length.
  • There have been two temporary beach evacuations at North Stradbroke Island due to the sharks spotted.
  • An array of other fauna has been spotted, including bait fish, large tuna, large mackerel, jellyfish, sea birds, turtles, rays, dolphins and even a humpback dolphin on the Sunshine Coast.

For more information visit