Salesforce-backed AI project SharkEye aims to protect beachgoers

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Salesforce is backing an AI project called SharkEye which aims to save the lives of beachgoers from one of the sea’s deadliest predators.

Shark attacks are, fortunately, quite rare. However, they do happen and most cases are either fatal or cause life-changing injuries.

Just last week, a fatal shark attack in Australia marked the eighth of the year—an almost 100-year record for the highest annual death toll. Once rare sightings in Southern California beaches are now becoming increasingly common as sharks are preferring the warmer waters close to shore.

Academics from the University of California and San Diego State University have teamed up with AI researchers from Salesforce to create software which can spot when sharks are swimming around popular beach destinations.

Sharks are currently tracked – when at all – by either keeping tabs of tagged animals online or by someone on a paddleboard keeping an eye out. It’s an inefficient system ripe for some AI innovation.

SharkEye uses drones to spot sharks from above. The drones fly preprogrammed paths at a height of around 120 feet to cover large areas of the ocean while preventing marine life from being disturbed.

If a shark is spotted, a message can be sent instantly to people including lifeguards, surf instructors, and beachside homeowners to take necessary action. Future alerts could also be sent directly to beachgoers who’ve signed up for them or pushed via social channels.

The drone footage is helping to feed further research into movement patterns. The researchers hope that by combining with data like ocean temperature, and the movement of other marine life, an AI will be able to predict when and where sharks are most likely to be in areas which may pose a danger to people.

SharkEye is still considered to be in its pilot stage but has been tested for the past two summers at Padaro Beach in Santa Barbara County.

A shark is suspected to have bitten a woman at Padaro Beach over summer when the team wasn’t flying a drone due to the coronavirus shutdown. Fortunately, her injuries were minor. However, a 26-year-old man was killed in a shark attack a few hours north in Santa Cruz just eight days later.

Attacks can lead to sharks also being killed or injured in a bid to save human life. Using AI to help find safer ways for sharks and humans to share the water can only be a good thing.

(Photo by Laura College on Unsplash)

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