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Surf Life Saving NSW is putting the call-out to people who would like to undertake free training to become a UAV (drone) pilot.

Providing a new pathway into Surf Life Saving, the UAV training program gives aspiring pilots the opportunity to don the iconic red and yellow uniform and patrol the NSW coastline without even getting their feet wet.

The training comes as part of the continuation of the Surf Life Saving NSW and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) UAV drone surveillance program established in 2017.

Training will be provided free-of-charge to applicants at eight locations between Forster, on the NSW Lower North Coast and Cudgen Headland on the Far North Coast.

Successful applicants will take part in a comprehensive two-day training program over the course of one weekend. Content will include a full day of practical flight training with an instructor and operationally specific information such as the identification of marine life and other hazards - such as rip currents.

For the first time, Forster and Crescent Head are being added to the DPI surveillance program and regular patrols in these areas will commence soon.

The first free UAV pilot training programs will commence at Crescent Head on 19 October and at Forster on 26 October. Training program dates in other locations will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce said that the UAV training program organisers are anticipating a strong response to the offer of free drone pilot training.

“Our two-day UAV training program is first-class. It’s a new pathway into Surf Life Saving for people who would like to volunteer as ‘dry lifesavers’ and help keep the community safe on our beaches and coastline,” Pearce said.

“In addition to volunteer work, the program also provides the potential for paid UAV pilot work with Surf Life Saving NSW during school holiday periods,” he concluded.

Upon completion of the UAV training program, new pilots will be required to join their local surf club and volunteer to pilot SLSNSW’s drones for a few hours once or twice a month. It is a similar time commitment that traditional surf lifesavers make.

People who have a current Remote Pilot’s Licence (RePL) or other aviation qualifications, may be granted recognition of prior learning and only be required to complete the operationally-specific aspects of the course.

SLSNSW currently runs two separate UAV surveillance programs:

  • The $16 million NSW Government Shark Management Strategy that has been carried out over the last four years. This program provides greater patrol surveillance at 18 identified locations and assists with shark species identification and research into the behaviour of marine life.

  • Westpac funds Australia’s first comprehensive national approach to surf rescue using innovative drone technology, giving surf lifesavers more eyes in the sky at patrolled beaches around the country.

More information on Surf Life Saving NSW’s free UAV pilot training program, including online registration, can be found on the SLSNSW website. To contact a member of the SLSNSW UAV team please email

Crescent Head DPI patrols will commence on 2-3 November 2019 at Kempsey Crescent Head SLSC, flying off Main Beach between 9am and 4pm.

UAV Training Location

 Surf Life Saving Club


Cudgen Headland SLSC

Byron Bay

Byron Bay SLSC

Lennox Head

Lennox Head/Alstonville SLSC


Ballina/Lismore SLSC

Evans Head

Evans Head-Casino SLSC

Flynns Beach

Port Macquarie SLSC

Crescent Head

Kempsey/Crescent Head SLSC


Forster SLSC


Tuesday 8 October 2019