Shark-Tracking Balloon Video System Proposed for Cape Cod Beaches

CHATHAM – Testing was conducted recently on the Lower Cape with equipment that many are hoping can detect white sharks near bathing beaches.

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy funded the $10,000 project with Florida-based company, Altametry, conducting tests with balloons holding high-tech cameras.

The company has used the technology in parades, music festivals and in events around the world.

The balloons are tethered to the ground and from an altitude of 200 feet, were able to successfully beam real-time images to operators on the ground.

“We’re not using any energy to stay up there,” said Altametry Founder and CEO John Ciampa. “So all the energy that’s up there, and we have optimized it, is to move the camera around, look at stuff and transmit.”

Trial flights were held at Nauset and two other beaches.

State shark expert Dr. Greg Skomal has joined the company’s board since the Conservancy and the company have been working together.

“He convinced me that this was a really good application for the smart balloon because it’s unobtrusive,” said Ciampa.

Beach operators were concerned about how visitors to the beaches were going to perceive the balloon technology, but Ciampa said that during testing, they found that people felt protected and were fascinated by it.

The company is proposing to deploy 15 balloons and cameras on the Outer Cape from Chatham to Provincetown.

Balloons would be stored in trailers and operators would change batteries twice a day.

For now, Ciampa is hoping to bring garner interest from town’s on the Outer Cape.

He said that the Town of Wellfleet is very interested in the technology and has asked the company to come before the board to discuss it.

“After a number of years of doing demos and experiments and so forth, we finally have come up with a product that I think is worth the effort to spot sharks,” said Ciampa.

If approved, the technology would take about three weeks to set up.


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