Drone Used To Track Great White Sharks Off California Coast

A local beach safety group in California is finding an innovative application for a new drone, using it to observe the dozen juvenile great white sharks that have taken up residence in the area.

The white sharks made headlines earlier this year when they were repeatedly sighted off Huntington and Seal Beaches, as the Inquisitr previously reported. Each time the sharks are spotted, however, lifeguards must be dispatched to observe them from jetskis, as the white sharks’ length determines whether or not they pose a grave enough threat to close the beaches. This process can take up to two hours, according to officials, yet a $1,400 drone recently purchased by the Seal Beach Marine Safety Department has significantly shortened that timeframe.

Department Chief Joe Bailey noted that the entire process of spotting and measuring the white sharks takes just 20 minutes when using the drone, according to Discovery News.

“It’s been the most effective way to spot sharks. Every time we’ve flown it, we have seen sharks. We’ve used it so successfully to find the sharks, we have started to realize there could be a number of great uses.”

Luckily, the sharks that have been sighted this year have averaged only four or five feet in length, meaning they pose little danger to beachgoers. At that size, the white sharks are juveniles, and feed primarily on fish and stingrays, as the Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch notes.

While it has been used to spot the white sharks, the drone also has a variety of other applications. Officials note that it can be used to identify dangerous riptides, which it can detect from heights of 100 feet. In an extreme and tragic case, the drone could also be used to potentially find the victim of one of those riptides, or any other oceanic accident.

Though this drone is being operated at a local level, it is hardly the first to be used to study wildlife. Last year, researchers used similar devices to track and study orca populations off the West Coast. The whale pods have been deeply impacted by changing water temperatures, which created a scarcity of food, leading to the death of several animals. Some researchers have also asserted that warming water temperatures could be responsible for the juvenile great white sharks off Seal Beach, which are closer to shore than usual.

[Image: Seal Beach Marine Safety Department via Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch]