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Safety Alert: Can Drones/Smart Phone Apps Make Beaches Safer?

Drones and Beach Safety.jpgSummer brings a higher risk of shark bites and drownings. Lifeguards do their part but what if they had drones to assist them? A central Florida professor says drones will help make beach outings safer in the future. Drones can fly over pretty far areas, and at high and low altitudes. That's why John Robbins says they hold great potential for public safety at the beach. Robbins researches unmanned aircraft systems at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. "With camera technologies or different types of sensors that are able to pick out things, discriminate things on the ground, like a swimmer that's in distress or say you were picking out a shadow for a shark, something like that," said Robbins. One thing keeping beach safety officials from using drones to scout for sharks right now is federal regulations. They're still evolving when it comes to the drone industry. Robbins is waiting for rules to come out -possibly in the next couple of months. He said regulators have to look at how drones can fly safely alongside manned aircraft such as helicopters flying near crowded beaches. Researchers are also looking at how drones can benefit other industries such as agriculture and real estate.

There is also a smartphone app being launched by the Chatham-based Atlantic Great White Conservancy which will let beachgoers from Canada to Florida monitor the movements of tagged great whites and report their own possible shark sightings. While the new measures provide a degree of security, researchers stress there's little chance beachgoers will become shark bait anyway. Worldwide, there were only 98 unprovoked shark attacks in 2015, resulting in six deaths. Of those, 59 were in the United States, including 30 in Florida and 16 in the Carolinas, according to the International Shark Attack File maintained at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

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