Drones to be Used to Monitor Beaches for Sharks

Following a recent incident where two children were bitten by sharks while swimming in the waters off of Fire Island, NY, drones have been monitoring Babylon’s Moses State Park and Wantagh’s Jones Beach in Long Island, NY. The drones will be flying along the Atlantic Ocean coast regularly to protect swimmers from sharks that may have swam close to the shore.

Even though each drone will have to be flown by an FAA licensed drone operator, they are much cheaper than helicopters or airplanes. The drones will transmit a live feed which will help monitor for sharks. According to Maj. Anthony Astacio, the commanding officer of state park police in New York City and on Long Island, the drones will also be used for other tasks such as managing traffic.

According to an official of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, one of the children, a 13-year old boy, had a shark tooth fragment pulled out of his leg.  The other child, a 12-year old girl, was also bitten by a shark as indicated by the shape of her wound. Luckily, both children did not suffer life threatening injuries.

The drones will not be working alone, according to Astacio. State park police marine units and bay constables from various town beaches will also be patrolling Long Island beaches as well.  While the drones have been welcomed by most people, there have been a few concerns raised about privacy issues. To address this, all the drone operations will be monitored and any pilots found misusing the drones could lose their license. The system also has limited storage to ensure not all footage gets saved.

In a statement, the New York Civil Liberties Union acknowledged the usefulness of drones in keeping the waters safe from shark attacks. However, it emphasized the need for law enforcement to come up with clear policies to ensure that citizen’s privacy is protected. The policies should include a limitation on the amount of data that can be collected and how long it can be stored for. Also, the drone footage must not be integrated with any other invasive surveillance technology such as facial recognition software.

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