Managing shark-human interactions is a key challenge in Australia. Key to our oceans, sharks inhabit coastlines where Australians have rich social, cultural, economic and environmental ties. Interactions may present safety risks; however, societies have a responsibility to effectively keep people safe while minimising environmental harm.
Researchers at the University of Wollongong, along with government officials, businesses and community stakeholders are looking at alternative approaches to mitigate human/shark interactions using innovative technology. The Project AIRSHIP team has designed a blimp carrying a camera with advanced motion detection software and is currently investigating its efficacy. The methodology is non-invasive - there is no by-catch - and the blimp can stay aloft all day to provide a continuous watch for sharks.
Project AIRSHIP is a community-supported, low-cost shark-spotting program, providing continuous coverage at Kiama beach. Embraced by the community, this innovative, non-invasive methodology is an alternative to the hotly debated, longstanding Shark Meshing Program. Project AIRSHIP gains safety and confidence in our waters, vitally important where tourism is critical to local economies.
"The community has responded really well, because its undeniably a great asset to the community and to the lifeguard service by keeping people safe, but it’s also an asset to the environment, by preventing the use of shark nets that can often trap other kind of marine life.
What we also really appreciate about the Project AIRSHIP team is their innovation. They are always collaborating with experts in different areas and thinking up new ways to innovate using technology and build on the blimp’s capacity. We really can’t wait to see how this exciting project advances in the coming seasons."
- Andy Mole, Supervising Beach Lifeguard, Kiama Municipal Council
- Shark nets are destructive and don’t keep you safe – let’s invest in lifeguards, The Conversation, 1 December 2019
- Episode Two- Airships and Sharks (Podcast), Murky Waters, 27 November 2019
- Shark drumline effectiveness highly debated, Bega District News, 29 January 2019
- Getting Caught Can Induce Labor in Sharks and Rays, Hakai Magazine, 23 March 2018
- Project AIRSHIP returns for summer, The Bugle, 14 December 2017
- Discovery, the sea and a PhD, The Stand, 12 December 2017
- Kiama's shark spotting blimp takes to the skies, Kiama Independent, 12 December 2017
- Project Airship: Asharkspotting Made Simple (SFB Student Competition in Science Communication awards), Thinkable.org, 2 May 2017
- NSW North Coast Shark Meshing Trial Report, Dept of Primary Fisheries, 9 February 2017
- Adams K., A. Broad, D. Ruiz-García, A.R. Davis (2020) Continuous wildlife monitoring using blimps as an aerial platform: a case study observing marine megafauna. Australian Zoologist 40: 407-415.
- Gorkin R., K. Adams, M. Berryman, S. Aubin, W. Li, A.R. Davis & J. Barthelemy (2020) Sharkeye: Real-Time Autonomous Personal Shark Alerting via Aerial Surveillance. Droneshttps://doi.org/10.3390/drones4020018
- Adams K.R., L. Gibbs, N.A. Knott, A. Broad, M. Hing, M.D. Taylor, A.R. Davis (2020) Coexisting with sharks: a novel, socially acceptable and non-lethal shark mitigation solution. Scientific Reports (acceptance pending)
- Ruiz-García D., K. Adams, H. Brown, A.R. Davis (2020) Determining stingray movement patterns using aerostats as an aerial video-surveillance platform: applications in ecology and conservation. Aquatic Conservation: marine and freshwater ecosystems (in prep.)
- Professor Andy Davis from the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health is a marine ecologist with long-held interest in human impacts on aquatic systems. His interest in shark meshing and its impacts was piqued when he served on the Fisheries Scientific Committee in 2014-15 to assess the status of vulnerable aquatic species in NSW. Prof. Davis explored alternatives to shark meshing in UOW’ Big Ideas festival in 2015.
- Mr Kye Adams from the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, is a surfer, professional lifeguard and PhD student at UOW who is passionate about finding a sustainable solution to managing shark-human interactions. Kye devised project AIRSHIP, and secured seed funding from state government and Save Our Seas Foundation to purchase infrastructure. He designed prototypes and has conducted equipment testing. Kye was an award winner in the 2016 UOW Pitch Competition and the 2016 UOW's Global Challenges Travel Scholarship Video Challenge.
- Dr Leah Gibbs is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities. Her research examines cultures and politics of nature, and environmental governance. Dr Gibbs has worked on human-shark encounter for several years, has published peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on the subject, contributed to a Parliamentary Inquiry and legal case, and participated in extensive media work around the topic.
- Associate Professor Wanqing Li from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, is Co-Director of the Advanced Multimedia Research Lab (AMRL). His research areas include computer vision and multimedia signal processing with focus on object detection and motion analysis from images and video. He has published over 135 refereed papers in these areas.
- Ms Allison Broad from the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, has worked in marine science for approximately 10 years. She is a skilled field worker and experienced project manager. She has developed a network of marine management and policy contacts in NSW and beyond. She feels strongly about improving outcomes for threatened and vulnerable marine life and facilitating change through good science and communication.
This project is working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals: