The Guardian reports that a new initiative of using drones to feed images with GPS coordinates back to operators looking for sharks will be field tested at Coffs Harbour, about 285 miles (380km) south of Brisbane. The shark-tracking drones are being deployed to protect Australia’s beachgoers after a series of attacks on surfers this year. Trials will begin next week as part of a strategy by the New South Wales (NSW) government, which will also see hi-tech drum lines installed to allow sharks to be hooked, tagged and released further out to sea.

Dubbed "Little Rippers", the single bladed drones reportedly can stay in the air for about two and a half hours before a recharge, and spend much of their time relaying live coastal video back to a two-person control team. In the event that team finds something, they can command their Ripper to drop a small payload of supplies including inflatable rafts and GPS beacons to aid rescuers and give potential victims a better chance of surviving.

A team at Sydney's University of Technology trying to enhance the drone's intelligence by developing software that will help Little Ripper identify the kind of shark that it's hovering over which will be a significant help to rescuers trying to figure out which situations require aerial assistance. Although New South Wales has several shark species cruising its waters there are only three kinds — bull sharks, tiger sharks and great whites — that are responsible for most attacks on humans. When Lil' Rip spots the lethal sharks, it could pass that information directly to lifeguards and EMS teams who can then start rescue operations when needed.

More at The Guardian.