The waters off the coast of Long Island, New York, have been undergoing a transformation marked by warmer temperatures and improved cleanliness. This shift has led to an influx of bait fish and their predators, sharks included. While this ecological change is positive, it has raised safety concerns for those enjoying the beaches. To counteract potential risks, officials at Jones Beach, a popular state park that draws six million visitors annually, have embraced the use of drones for safety monitoring. Lifeguards and New York State Park Police now employ drones to keep a watchful eye on the waters. When sharks or unusual marine behavior are detected, swimmers can be swiftly alerted to stay onshore.

The drone program, initially launched in 2017, has taken on renewed importance following a series of shark-related incidents along New York’s beaches this summer. While the risk of shark attacks remains low, recent events have prompted a more proactive approach. At Jones Beach, a fleet of 19 drones is operated by lifeguards, supplemented by officers utilizing a mobile command center. These drones are equipped with advanced cameras capable of capturing underwater imagery from an elevation of roughly 25 feet. Beyond identifying potential threats, this technology can assist in search and rescue efforts. Despite the costs associated with running the program, authorities view the drone initiative as a critical tool for ensuring the safety of beachgoers. It’s essential to emphasize that drone operations adhere to strict guidelines, placing a premium on public safety and privacy considerations.