Drone presence to increase competitor safety at Ocean Roar

Drones are set to soar over Rainbow Beach during Round 4 of Surf Life Saving Queensland’s Ocean Roar IRB series this weekend.

The cutting edge technology will increase safety surveillance and assist judging, providing a bird’s eye view of competitors as they battle the waves.

Surf Life Saving Australia partnered with Westpac earlier this year to launch 12 Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drones across the Queensland coastline. The army of drones relay vision with pinpoint accuracy, and can be used to monitor rips and other surf conditions, marine life such as sharks and crocodiles, and spot swimmers in distress.

However, drones have also proved a valuable resource in surf sport, having recently been dispatched for the 2019 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships in April. The digital eagles will continue to fly high for surf sport competition this weekend, aiding safety efforts and judging.

SLSQ Sports Manager Stuart Hogben said the drones would be particularly valuable for spotting marine life at the Ocean Roar event.

“Rainbow Beach does not fall under the usual flight path of the Sunshine Coast-based Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service, so the drones provide us an aerial perspective that wouldn’t otherwise be possible,” he said.

Mr Hogben added that the cooler months could result in heightened marine activity, so pre-event drone surveillance could provide competitors, officials and spectators with further peace of mind.

“In winter, you see the migration of whales and other marine life passing along the South East Queensland coast. With heightened marine activity in these remote areas that aren’t netted, drum-lined or baited, drone surveillance prior to the event provides competitors with extra protection,” he said.

Mr Hogben also noted that the drones provided an additional resource for judges, who were often required to rule on close calls.

“When we ran the drone trial for Ocean Roar last year, we found that drone footage could be used to back up our judges’ decisions. For example, we could check if competitors were meeting key race requirements such as ensuring a patient’s legs were out of the water by a certain marker.”

After dangerous conditions forced an early close to Round 3 of the series at Coolum Beach on May 18, Mr Hogben said competitors would no doubt be fired up for the weekend’s racing.

“After three rounds of racing, Kurrawa is in first place, followed by Kirra and Broadbeach. But with two rounds to go – anything can happen. And with drones in the mix, we’ll all have front row seats to the action.”

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