Marine Watch director Glenn-Leigh Smith with fellow pilot Paul Davidson and the Seabird.
Marine Watch director Glenn-Leigh Smith with fellow pilot Paul Davidson and the Seabird. Blainey Woodham

Seabird to watch for sharks

THE beaches of the southern Gold Coast may have a new eye in the sky.

Aerial observation business Marine Watch is trialling a new coastal surveillance aircraft on the tourist strip for spotting sharks and locating swimmers in trouble.

If successful, the SB7L-360 Seeker-2 Seabird will operate seven days a week over areas including Point Danger, Rainbow Bay, Coolangatta and Kirra beaches up to Couran Cove for the use of lifesavers, lifeguards, police and marine authorities.

Marine Watch director Glenn Leigh Smith said it is the greatest surveillance swimmers could ask for.

“It's the perfect coastal surveillance aircraft,” Mr Leigh Smith said. “It can stay up in the air three times as long as a helicopter for the same price.

“The Seabird can last seven hours in the air at a time, it flies at around 65 knots and can drop down to as low as 50 feet.”

The veteran aviator and boatie is no stranger to the air or water - his father Reg founded Coast Guard and Air Sea Rescue on the Gold Coast in the 1960s.

Mr Leigh Smith said the idea for Marine Watch came about when Brisbane man Jonathon Beard was mauled by a shark off Fingal Beach in January.

He was with his family at Kingscliff at the time and noticed that people began to go back into the water after a surf life saving helicopter and a light plane made a sweep and gave swimmers the all-clear.

He said a regular aerial surveillance would give beachgoers peace of mind.

Gold Coast City Council mayor Ron Clarke and chief Gold Coast lifeguard Warren Young have already taken test flights.

If Gold Coast City Council is willing to foot the $800,000 a year bill, the program could be operational by the second week of December.



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