The blimp over Surf Beach has finished its second season, having given lifeguards an unprecedented amount of information about sea life and surf conditions.
Project AIRSHIP is a collaboration between University of Wollongong marine biology PhD student Kye Adams and Kiama Council lifeguards. It involves a live-streaming video camera attached to a blimp spotting dangers in the surf.
During its second season, the system demonstrated its capacity when it was used to alert beachgoers to the presence of two grey nurse sharks feeding on a large school of fish.
The blimp operator was able to continuously monitor the sharks as they moved around the beach and assisted lifeguards in their decision to re-open the beach when the fish activity moved offshore.
“This summer it’s been great to show the public that dangerous sharks are quite rare at our beaches compared to other marine creatures,” says Kye Adams.
“We’ve been able to successfully show that the blimp can reliably detect a range of marine life, including sharks, seals, stingrays and baitfish.
“With the University and the Department of Primary Industries we are in the process of developing automated shark detection algorithms that will have the
capacity to send alerts to swimmers’ and surfers’ smart watches if a shark is spotted.
“Basically, we are teaching the blimp to spot sharks on its own and giving it the ability to alert beachgoers in real time.”