Uncharted territory: UNC scientists use drones to detect sharks

From the time I was a very young child I've always had a really keen interest in sharks I've heard many stories from family members about carrying little toy sharks around with me everywhere

Having the opportunity to study sharks is something that I only could have dreamed of as a kid and being able to live that dream is a very fulfilling career So sharks, unlike studying for example trees, are very elusive They're constantly moving around, they're underwater so you can't see them, so we have to find ways to gather information given some of these difficulties in studying them When people hear the word drones a lot of times they think of military applications we're actually using drones for research It's the first study of its kind, we're the first ones to take a drone, fly it over decoys of sharks and figure out what characteristics allow us to detect them

One of the advantages of what we're doing with the decoys is we can place the decoy in a specific location knowing about the conditions surrounding that decoy and then we can fly the drone over it and figure out: can it be seen? As a graduate student it's really exciting to be a part of a project where we're sort of entering uncharted territory We're looking at sharks from a perspective that no other scientist has