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New York super-sizes anti-shark drone fleet

Once vanishingly rare in the state, at least four shark bites were confirmed in Long Island last week alone

The state of New York will unleash dozens of state-of-the-art drones over beaches in Long Island and New York City in an effort to combat a rise in shark attacks, Governor Kathy Hochul revealed on Friday. 

Some $1 million has been set aside to buy an unspecified number of drones and train local Parks Department personnel in using the unmanned craft, which sweep their designated territory three times daily. 

Hochul had already more than doubled the size of the state’s shark surveillance fleet with the purchase of ten drones at the start of this year’s beach season, bringing the total number of drones to 18. The most advanced among them are equipped with thermal imaging, laser range finding, and high-quality cameras for nighttime and storm patrol, as well as the ability to drop personal flotation devices. 


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While the state has not seen a fatal shark attack in decades, authorities confirmed three non-fatal bites on Long Island and nearby Fire Island during Tuesday’s Independence Day holiday. The previous day, one bite was confirmed and another suspected on Fire Island. On Thursday, the sighting of a 10-foot shark at Robert Moses State Park emptied the water at the popular spot, which had already been forced to delay opening earlier in the week when a group of 50 sand sharks attempted to crash the party. 

Shark experts insist the bites are accidents, as humans are not natural prey for sharks, and credit cleaner water and ample baitfish populations with tempting a dozen species of the carnivore closer to shore. An influx of young tiger sharks is thought to be behind most of the increase in shark encounters – eight people were bitten in New York last year, making it second only to Florida as the shark attack capital of the US. 

Before last year’s feeding frenzy, just 12 unprovoked shark bites had been recorded in New York – ever. Even then, however, they had begun to increase in frequency, with four counted in the decade leading up to 2022. 


A shark sighting in a New York state park sets hundreds of people into motion, including lifeguards, police, park staff, and over 200 members of the Long Island Coastal Awareness Group tasked with monitoring their own parcels of beach. Only after the water is declared shark-free for an hour can swimming resume.        

Even the New York Police Department only has 14 surveillance drones. The unmanned aircraft are the subject of much consternation from civil liberties groups, which have proposed a ban on drone use at constitutionally protected gatherings like protests or even a complete ban on police drones. It is unclear where such measures would leave Hochul’s shark-spotters, however.

July 09, 2023 at 12:38AM


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