Australia teaching drones a new trick: playing lifeguard

The use for unmanned drones increases every day. This time it's to keep an eye on the beaches of Queensland, Australia to look out for swimmers in trouble — and, of course, any sharks lurking too close.

Surf Life Saving Australia will be deploying the Aerobot Ring, a co-axial hexacopter, in a trial of the drones' effectiveness. The drones are roughly three feet wide and have a payload capacity of around 15 pounds for a flight time of 15 minutes. They'll carry cameras to keep an eye on the water, as well as life buoys to drop to those in distress. Plus, there's a siren to warn people of potential trouble before it happens.

Should the tests prove to be successful, Brett Williamson, head of Surf Life Saving Australia would like to see the trials expanded to patrol many of Australia's remote beaches unmanned by lifeguards.

There has been some debate over whether the drones, with their cameras attached are an invasion of swimmers privacy on secluded beaches. Williamson told the Australian Broadcasting Service:

"At the end of the day this is about public safety," he said. "It's not about intruding on anybody's privacy and, fortunately, with our experience of having the fixed cameras network we haven't had one problem or one complaint or one operator that hasn't operated in strict accordance with those protocols that we have in place."

Controversy aside, with shark attacks and spottings on the rise in certain parts of Australia, the drones could very well help keep the encounters to a minimum as Australia heads into summer.

The video below shows the final test trials of the drones that will be pressed into service.

Via Yahoo.com.au, Gizmodo

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