When filming with a drone, you can sometimes see things that aren’t as obvious as when you’re down on the ground – or in the ocean. This is what recently happened in Australia when a drone operator filmed a close encounter between a surfer and a shark. Thanks to the drone footage, the pilot was able to warn the surfer so he could safely return to the shore.
Matt Wilkinson was surfing at Sharpes Beach at Ballina, Australia last week when he had a close encounter with a 1.5 m (5 feet) shark. The drone was flying above him, operated by Surf Life Saving NSW on behalf of the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI). The drones are used at the beach exactly for these purposes, to see things that we may not be able to spot from the ground.
Matt said that he was aware of the drone and the operator warned him to go back to the beach. He heard the warning and headed back. However, it was only when he saw the footage that he realized how close the shark really was. “I was surfing out the back at Sharpes Beach and just cruising on my own,” Matt said. “I heard a splash and a noise and looked around and couldn’t see anything,”
“I got to the shore feeling a bit weird and the lifeguards showed me the footage and I realized how close it came without knowing it was there. It looks like it’s going for my leg and it’s changed its mind. I feel grateful and pretty weird at the same time but happy it decided not to go me.”
We’ve seen drone footage and photos capturing sharks near swimmers before. It sure looks scary, and I know many people are terrified of sharks. However, they’re not really as dangerous as they’re often presented.
According to the statistics, there are only four deaths worldwide caused by unprovoked shark attacks each year. In fact, way more people die from taking selfies: between October 2011 and November 2017, 259 selfie deaths were reported. That’s around an average of 43 selfie deaths a year! Still, even though shark attacks are not that common, surfers are the most likely to be attacked, so it’s good to have drone surveillance to warn them when a shark approaches. After all, better safe than sorry.
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