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Drones on surf watch (cloned for SW 1338863881)
Drones on surf watch (cloned for SW 1338863881)

Unmanned drones could soon be monitoring swimmers and sharks off WA beaches.

The technology - normally used in military operations - will be tested as a surf lifesaving tool later this year.

Surf Life Saving Australia chief executive Brett Williamson said a three-month trial on Queensland's North Stradbroke Island was expected to start in September.

"This robotic drone program is an exciting innovation," he said. "This technology can be applied to a range of scientific areas such as monitoring erosion, bushfires and tracking shark movements. It allows us to spot a swimmer in trouble before something serious occurs.

"There's an old saying in surf lifesaving: 'If we can't see you, we can't save you'."

Surf Life Saving WA spokesman Chris Peck said although it was an exciting idea, there was no substitute for manned helicopter patrols.