An amateur drone owner saved the life of an unsuspecting surfer when he spotted a shark approaching the man and alerted him using a speaker, the Illawarra Mercury reports.
On Saturday, Christopher Joye, a contributing editor at the Australian Financial Review, was searching for sharks at Werri Beach — a town off the southwestern coast of Australia — with his search and rescue drone when he found a large shark swimming toward the surfer.
"I saw this large shark that looked about three meters to four meters circling a surfer," he told the newspaper. "The surfer was completely oblivious even though the water was very clear."
Luckily, Joye's drone, a Mavic Enterprise 2, had infrared thermal imaging capability and a speaker system that allowed him to warn the surfer that the shark was close.
"As the surfer swung his board towards the beach, the animal was spooked and thankfully bolted back out to sea," Joye said.
At Werri Beach today this large shark was approaching a surfer, and I used my drone's speaker system to warn him. Watch him look up at the drone, then bolt, with the sudden splashing warding off the approaching shark @smh @FinancialReview pic.twitter.com/awjDHMoUVq— christopher joye (@cjoye) September 15, 2019
The journalist told the Mercury that he suspects the shark was either a bronze whaler or a great white but couldn't be sure.
"I have seen numerous sharks at Werri using drones, but this is the first time I have been able to warn anyone with the speaker system," he said. "It is also the first time I have seen one heading for a surfer."
Joye posted footage from the drone over the weekend, sparking a somewhat heated discussion over whether the shark was actually targeting the surfer at all.
"The shark turned away before the surfer even started paddling, so the splashing didn’t deter it," one commenter wrote.
Others, however, praised Joye for his quick thinking.
"Congratulations on saving someone’s life and/or limbs today!" another person tweeted. "This is the best use of drone technology yet."
Earlier this summer, a Florida father similarly noticed a shark heading toward his wife and children while operating a drone during a beach trip. Fortunately, he got to his family in time and managed to evacuate them before anything occurred.