Crocodile spotting drones to be trialled on Four Mile Beach


Mark Murray


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Drone technology will be trialled on Four Mile Beach this week in a bid to improve crocodile management. IMAGE. Supplied.

Small crocodile found inside stinger net

CROCODILE spotting drones will be trialled on Four Mile Beach this week.

Community anxiety on the frequency of crocodile sightings along Far North beaches has seen Surf Life Saving Queensland put pressure on the State Government to help address the issue.

They have called for increased funding this state election to support a one-year pilot program to fly drones across beaches, with an initial four-day trial starting in Port Douglas tomorrow.

“Crocodiles have been, and continue to be, a big issue for residents, tourists and our own members across North Queensland and we want to be working with all stakeholders to increase and improve efforts to protect beachgoers,” SLSQ chief operating officer George Hill said.

“We’ve extensively trialled drones in the past from a search and rescue perspective, but we’ve never actively tested them when it comes to crocodile management. 

“This trial will help us determine the suitability of using drones to identify, monitor, and track crocodiles both on the land and in the water.”

Hill believes the potential benefits of drone technology ‘are huge’. It has already proved successful on tourist beaches in New South Wales and Victoria alerting lifeguards to sharks.

“If successful, there’s no doubt in my mind that drones can help our surf lifesavers and lifeguards keep beachgoers safe across North Queensland and ultimately reduce crocodile attacks and other incidents,” he said.

It comes just two days after a small crocodile was found inside the stinger net on Four Mile Beach, and less than two weeks after a similar incident at Palm Cove. Both beaches will be the target of the four-day trial this week, with lifeguards at Port Douglas set to control the drones.

A recent safety report by the SLSQ found there has been 15 crocodile attacks across Queensland in the past 10 years, including six fatalities.

Hill said more could, and should, be done to protect North Queensland communities, but acknowledged many initiatives would require additional funding to be rolled out. 

“We want to be doing everything we can to protect North Queensland communities, but that obviously requires additional government funding and assistance,” he said.

“We’ve asked for an additional $150,000 in funding to roll out a one-year pilot program to fly drones across North Queensland, and a further $105,000 to increase our involvement in the Crocwise program,” he said.

Hill also renewed calls to relocate crocodiles from patrolled beaches and public access waterways, saying it would go a long way towards increasing public safety.

“We don’t want to see crocodiles harmed, but our priority as an organisation needs to be protecting beachgoers, swimmers, and our own members, and we absolutely support their removal from any waterway if there’s a chance they could be a risk to public safety,” he said.

“If they’re particularly large or aggressive crocodiles, then it’s even more important.

“Sightings and attacks have had long-term, negative impacts on our membership figures up north, so it’s obviously in our best interest to be doing everything we can to help manage this issue as well.”

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