New York Authorities Deploy Drone ‘Squadron’ to Scan for Sharks

New York state park authorities have deployed a “squadron” of DJI Mavic drones across the coastline of Long Island to scan the waters for potential danger amid a rise in shark encounters.

As reported by the Associated Press, local officials are using a variety of methods to keep a close eye out for sharks, including a fleet of DJI Mavic drones.

As PetaPixel just reported today, sharks have made a return to the waters of the northeast and while much of it is due to the return of seals to the Massachusetts area, sharks are also becoming more common in the waters off New York. AP reports that shark encounters were rare just a few years ago, but last year there were eight reports of shark bites off Long Island beaches and this year there have already been five.

“We are now more vigilant than ever,” George Gorman, the state’s park director in Long Island, tells AP. “We have drones in the sky that watch over the waters. We have lifeguards on WaveRunners that watch over the waters.”

This week, a 10-foot shark was seen near Robert Moses State Park, the same location that had delayed its opening until after July 4 due to a group of 50 sharks that were spotted off the coast.

Lifeguards are using drones to make three sweeps per day: one before opening, around midday, and a final time before the end of the day. They say that the perspective afforded by the drones allows them to get a view of the waters that is otherwise not available to them.

“When you’re up in an elevated lifeguard station or a lifeguard stand, you can see up and you can see out, but you can’t see straight down,” Cary Epstein, a lifeguard supervisor who pilots drones at Jones Beach, tells AP. “When we do have sharks that are eating on these fish, it’s very, very clear to us. You could see it, no questions asked.”

Drones have proven to be effective tools at spotting sharks in the past. In 2019, photographer and YouTuber Dan Watson spotted a shark in the water near his family with his drone, allowing him to quickly get them out of the water and away from danger. In 2022, another drone photographer captured footage of a tiger shark swimming next to a father and his two young children who had no idea that it was nearby and was able to warn them of the danger. Even more recently, this past January a drone photographer was hailed as a hero after warning swimmers of an approaching great white.

It is important to note that sharks aren’t malicious creatures looking to attack humans, but rather are predators of opportunity. Per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), sharks rarely attack people, and when they do, it is often the result of confusion or curiosity. But shark attacks can be dangerous regardless of the animals’ intent, and New York authorities are simply taking precautions.

“Despite the nervousness over what’s going on right now in New York, people swim in the ocean every day, and they have for centuries,” Epstein adds. “But we do have to remember that we are cohabitating, and this is their house.”

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.