It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a … shark-spotting drone? It exists, and it does more than spot sharks. The drone, recently launched (so to speak) as part of a pilot program in New South Wales, is being hailed as “the future of rescue” in Australia.

The helicopter-shaped drone carries a “pod” that contains rescue gear including a locator beacon, inflatable three-person life raft and even shark repellent. The pod can be dropped down to a swimmer in distress.

The drone, made in the United States, helps protect swimmers and surfers from underwater threats, including fish with big teeth. Its high-tech camera can be used in conjunction with a software algorithm to detect sharks lurking in popular swimming spots.

Related: Dumb Things People Have Done With Drones

This mini-copter, nicknamed “The Little Ripper,” is more stable in cross winds than regular drones and is a cheaper, more agile alternative to helicopter rescue, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. When fully charged, it can fly for up to one hour.


The drone was dreamt up by Kevin Weldon, the founding president of the International Life Saving Federation, and former Australian astronaut Paul Scully-Power. Westpac, an Australian bank, is funding the trial. Weldon told the Sydney Morning Herald if the trial is successful, there would be a Little Ripper attached to each Westpac rescue helicopter (there are 17) around Australia.

Related: No-Drone Zones: Crazy Ways Governments Are Plucking Rogue Drones Out of the Sky

Avoiding a shark attack

Even if shark-spotting drones were to one day keep watch over America’s beaches, it still pays to use shark smarts when dipping into the ocean. Here are five ways to avoid a shark bite:

1. Swim during the day. Sharks are most active at dusk and dawn, so swim during daylight hours.

2. Take off jewelry. The light reflecting off metal can look like the scales of a fish and attract a shark, according to National Geographic. Leave your bling on the shore.

3. Avoid fishing spots. Stay away from places like fishing piers, as there may be bait in the water.

4. Swim with a buddy. Predators usually go after solitary prey.

5. Avoid spots sharks love. The Florida Museum of Natural History says inlets, channels and troughs between sand bars that form the surf zone in a beach area are among sharks’ favorite hangout spots.

Related: Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Sharks?


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Angela is a Pulitzer Prize-winning digital editor with more than 15 years of experience delivering news and information to audiences worldwide. Prior to joining SafeBee, she was the features editor for Boston.com at The Boston Globe, overseeing health, travel, entertainment, business and lifestyle coverage. Before moving to features, she was the news and homepage editor, covering stories such as the Boston Marathon bombing, Red Sox World Series victories, presidential elections, a papal inauguration, and more. Her favorite safety tip: Clean your phone! The average cell phone has 18 times more germs than the toilet handle in a men’s restroom.