A surf life-saving drone in New South Wales, Australia, has captured a pro surfer narrowly avoiding a shark after it looks to be spooked by the surfer. Matt Wilkinson managed to get away unscathed earlier this week after his close encounter.

While pro surfer Matt Wilkinson was in the water catching waves, a Surf Life Saving New South Wales drone was watching from above, on the lookout for sharks. A shark began to approach Wilkinson, getting within a few inches of him and his board.

Wilkinson said:

I heard a little splash behind me, looked back and there was nothing there, and then the lifeguard’s drone came down and said that there was a dangerous shark in the area. The shark had kind of come at me from in front and then went around the back and had a little go at my legs, then last minute decided that my feet stunk or something and turned away.

The type of shark is currently unknown but it appears to either be a bronzie or bull shark, both spotted often along the New South Wales coastline. The shark looked to be about 8 feet long, according to Wilkinson.

Being a surfer, sharks are often in the water nearby the whole time. Wilkinson shared that he was feeling pretty lucky to have come out of it as there have been six fatal shark attacks this year alone in Australia. Matt Wilkinson is a surfer out of Sydney, Australia, best known for his back-to-back win of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast and the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach championship tour in 2016.

Sharks and drones

Drones are being used by Australian lifeguards to monitor and track sharks swimming in and around popular beaches. The drone known as the Little Ripper uses AI to detect sharks, alerting lifeguards, emergency services, and swimmers. The shark-spotting drone has a 90% accuracy rate, while current manned aircraft have accuracy rates of around 20%.

Drones are playing an increasingly important role in shark spotting and protecting beachgoers. It seems a safe bet drones will continue to be added to the arsenal of lifeguards around the world.

Photo: Surf Life Saving New South Wales/ABC News

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