Jaws may have given us an irrational fear of sharks, but for Australia’s swimmers and surfers the threat of attack can be very real. In a bid to make its beaches safer, a group of researchers in Australia has created a new shark-detecting drone, capable of picking out the deadly fish from the air.

Image: REUTERS/David Gray

Quicker and more accurate than the human eye, the SharkSpotter uses artificial intelligence to analyse images captured from the sky by the drone. Sharks are singled out from footage of surfers, swimmers and other marine wildlife, including dolphins and rays, while an on-board loudspeaker can hail people in the water below, alerting them to the risk.

Image: Cnet

The drones have been developed by The Little Ripper Group, which worked in partnership with researchers from the University of Technology Sydney's School of Software.

The Little Ripper drones have previously been fitted with "shark shield" devices that bomb sharks with electrical pulses to irritate them and deter them from the area.

The drones will begin patrolling beaches in New South Wales and Queensland on Australia's east coast from September.

There were 26 unprovoked shark attacks recorded in Australia in 2016, of which two were fatal, according to the Taronga Conservation Society. Compared to the numbers of visitors to the country’s beaches (40,000 people are thought to visit Bondi Beach on Christmas day alone) this is a comparatively low figure. But despite long lists of things more likely to kill you than sharks - including cows, bathtubs and lawnmowers - the fear of attack from the toothy predators still weighs heavily on Australian’s minds.