A bald eagle in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has restored its air supremacy after attacking and destroying a mapping drone.
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) described the incident as “an airborne attack ” that resulted in the $950 mapping drone sinking to the bottom of Lake Michigan.
EGLE environmental quality analyst and drone pilot Hunter King was mapping shoreline erosion to help communities cope with high water levels near Escanaba. About seven minutes into the flight, the satellite reception became spotty so King pressed the “Go Home” recall button for the drone.
The drone turned toward home but was intercepted by the bald eagle. The bald eagle, with a wingspan of 8 feet and talons that can exert a force of 1,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, easily won the battle by tearing off one of the propellers.
As the drone spiraled 162 feet into Lake Michigan is sent 27 warnings in just 3.5 seconds, including one that indicated one of its propellers had been tore off.
King watched the video screen as the drone spun out of control and recalled it as “like a really bad rollercoaster ride.” A couple birdwatching confirmed they saw the eagle attack the drone but thought it was a seagull. The eagle flew away unharmed as the drone plummeted to the bottom of the lake.
“The attack could have been a territorial squabble with the electronic foe, or just a hungry eagle. Or maybe it did not like its name being misspelled,” wrote EGLE.
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The $950 Phantom 4 Pro Advanced drone was never recovered. The drone team is working on reducing the chance of another attack on their drones by making them look less like seagulls. However, there are no guarantees that another attack will not occur in the future.
“Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do,” a spokesman for Michigan Department of Natural Resources said. “Nature is a cruel and unforgiving mistress.”
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