The Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver drone is currently in the process of unveiling a new computer algorithm, which is set to significantly improve the ability of the device to spot sharks in the water.
The Little Ripper Lifesaver, that carries SCHILLER Australia’s FRED PA-1 EAD Defibrillator, visited Ballina earlier this week to demonstrate its increased capabilities.
Ben Trollope, Operations Manager of the Westpac Little Ripper program, met with the Mayor of Ballina Shire Cr David Wright, and the University of Technology’s Dr Nabin Sharma on Lighthouse Beach to discuss the possibility of trialling the Little Ripper Lifesaver as an additional way to mitigate against shark attacks in the area.
The Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver company partnered with the University of Technology (UTS) in Sydney to create the new algorithm.
Dr Nabin Sharma from UTS said 8000 images and footage taken from drones flying along the NSW coast in the past 12 months had been used to develop the algorithm. The company held a two-week trial in Ballina last year.
The algorithm is loaded onto the computer software to allow it to identify sharks, dolphins, boats, swimmers and surfers from the live feed being transmitted to the computer from drones.
He said it is 90% accurate, which is much more than the 18% accuracy of human spotters in helicopters and the 12% accuracy of spotters in fixed-wing aircraft.
Ben Trollope said the company has various sized drones in its fleet of 35, which have a range of between 15 minutes and four hours.
He said it would take the larger drone about 10 minutes to do a complete sweep of Lighthouse Beach, scanning about 100m of surf every 0.6 seconds while flying at an altitude of 80m.
With drones proving to be the way of the future, this is just another function of the already brilliant technology that is being used to save lives in a more hands-on way. The Little Ripper Lifesaver will now simultaneously prevent deaths by sharks and help to prevent the deaths of beach-goers in need of early defibrillation and first aid.
Trollope said a cost of $40,000 would buy a drone, pay for training for four people and cover ongoing maintenance.
Ballina Shire Council currently pays $250,000 each year for lifeguards.