A bald eagle in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula launched “an airstrike” late last month on a drone operated by the state’s Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), the department said on Thursday. During the squabble, the eagle shut down the drone’s propeller, causing the device to fall 162 feet into the air and into the lake.
The “Brazen” Eagle vs. Eagle skirmish occurred while Hunter King, an environmental quality analyst and drone pilot, was mapping erosion along the shoreline. The data is being used to help communities cope with rising water levels.
When King faced a poor satellite reception, he pressed the “Go Home” button, calling the drone back to him. But as it made its home, it began “twisting furiously” during its feud with the Eagles.
“It was like a really bad rollercoaster ride,” King said.
When he looked up to find the drone in the sky, he was gone, and the eagle was already flying, victorious. A nearby couple confirms to the king that they have seen a eagle attacking in the sky.
The trio said that Chiles appeared unmarked as he fled the crime scene.
The king and the couple searched for the drone for hours but returned empty-handed. Several days later, Arthur Ostaszewski, coordinator of EGLE Unmanned Aircraft Systems, brought the kayak to search.
At a distance of about 150 feet, in four feet of water, Ostaszewski searched in a grid pattern for two hours, but found nothing. It was like “I was playing Battleship and wanted to cover the whole board,” he said of his discovery.
The agency said the drone was a DJI Phantom 4 Pro Advanced, priced at $ 950.
Data from the flight indicate that the drone sent 27 warning notifications seconds after the battle began, including one about the propeller that had been torn down. Its final message to the world indicated that it was falling at 30 feet per second before hitting the water.
“The attack may be a territorial squid with electronic phobia, or just a hungry eagle,” EGLE said. “Or maybe it didn’t like it to be misspelled.”
The agency’s drone team is looking at ways to reduce repeated attacks in the future, including making changes to the design of drones to make them look less like seagulls.
The EGL asked the state Department of Natural Resources to somehow reprimand the eagle, but the agency said it had no authority to issue a citation to individual, non-human wildlife.
“Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do,” the department spokesman said. “Nature is a cruel and incompetent mistress.”