A pro surfer had a close shave with a great white while surfing in Australia recently. However, new drone technology helped alert the surfer to the danger…

According to New South Wales’ Surf Lifesaving club, the encounter was recorded by the drone. World championship tour surfer, Matt Wilkinson, was training at Sharpes Beach at Ballina when the incident took place.

Wilkinson said that he had heard the drone flying overhead, and heard the warning over the load speaker. He felt a bump beneath him as the shark – estimated to be around 1.5 metres in length – bumped his board.

In the drone footage, the shark can be seen swiftly swimming away. Wilkinson quickly made his way back to the beach where he was shown the hair-raising footage by the life savers. The beach was evacuated and closed for the day.

Drones are being used for shark spotting at popular beaches worldwide, and have proven to be extremely effective. The ‘bird’s eye view’ offers life savers a chance to see the sharks from the air, and alert surfers via the onboard load speaker.

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In South Africa, the Shark Spotters organisation based in Muizenberg, Cape Town also makes use of drones. According to them, the drones also help make it easier to distinguish between dangerous great whites and the less threatening sharks that may swim near to surfers and swimmers.

According to CEO Sarah Waries, the organisation deploys drones after the spotter (or a member of the public) has spotted an unknown animal in the water and need confirmation of species.

“Unfortunately, we have found that they are not suitable to replace our normal spotting activities as their battery life is very short (+/- 15 mins) and they do not cope well in the wind. It is possible to get higher spec drones that have longer batteries and can withstand stronger weather conditions but unfortunately they are extremely expensive and not cost-effective for us.”