LONG ISLAND - There are new eyes in the sky to protect beachgoers after record shark sightings and bites off of Long Island last summer.
Jones Beach lifeguard supervisor Cary Epstein is one of several FAA-certified drone operators who use specialized skills to watch for dangerous marine life.
"You’re talking about several miles of beachfront. We’re typically doing a scheduled flight three times a day," Epstein said.
An estimated $145,000 in the state budget will go towards Long Island's shark-monitoring efforts. New surveillance this summer includes increasing the number of trained operators like Epstein, from 21 to 33, adding 10 more drones, and following shark sighting protocols with state park officials.
"On a typical day, we would take the boat and patrol the bathing areas from west to east and east to west and stay in contact with lifeguards if we see suspicious or dangerous marine life," said Sgt. Nicholas Cobis with NYS Park Police.
Once sharks are spotted, water scooters are used to patrol and break up the pools of bait and bunker fish, so they don’t come closer to shore.
Experts say there aren't necessarily more sharks but rather increased sightings now that we’re more aware.