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Bald eagle attacks drone, sends it to bottom of lake

/ 03:50 PM August 15, 2020

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A bald eagle, seemingly proving its dominance of the skies, took out a state-operated mapping drone over the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, USA, sending it to the bottom of the state’s famous lake.

The said eagle on July 21 attacked its robotic prey and tore off its propeller while it was hovering near the city of Escanaba, according to the Michigan government’s release on Aug. 13.

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The drone at the time was being operated by drone pilot Hunter King, an environmental quality analyst from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), who was then mapping shoreline erosion.

It was being used to aid the agency’s efforts to “document and help communities cope with high water levels” before it met its unfortunate end.

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King was on the fourth day of mapping the area and was about seven minutes into the process when satellite reception suddenly fluctuated, the release stated.

He then pressed the “Go Home” button, causing the drone to turn around and head to him as it had reportedly reacquired a better signal.

King, who was watching the camera feed on his screen, then saw that the drone started spinning violently, noting that “It was like a really bad rollercoaster ride.”

When he looked to the sky to check on the drone, he saw nothing but an empty sky, except for an eagle flying away from the scene.

A couple who witnessed the attack confirmed to King that the said eagle indeed attacked the said drone. They then helped the drone’s pilot search the shoreline of the lake, although they could not find the drone.

With the help of telemetric data from the flight, the location of where the drone exactly hit the water was pinpointed several days after the attack.

After another attempt to find the drone, however, EGLE Unmanned Aircraft Systems coordinator Arthur Ostaszewski, who kayaked and snorkeled through the lake, was still unable to find the drone.

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The drone, worth $950 (around P46,300), is reportedly no longer in production and will just be replaced with a similar model, according to the report.

Flight records shared in the release showed that the drone, which was initially 162 feet above the water, fell at 30 feet per second or 20.4 mph after the attack. It sent a couple of “excessive spinning” warnings and 27 other warning notifications as it went down, before ultimately losing communication at 34 feet above the lake.

EGLE’s drone team is reportedly planning to use “skins” to make drones look less like seagulls, which eagles often attack in the area, to prevent a similar event from happening again.

Citing a US Fish and Wildlife Survey last year, the Michigan government noted that the state currently has 849 active eagle nesting sites, a huge increase from the 1970s’ measly record of 76. Ian Biong /ra

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TAGS: bald eagle, Birds, birds of prey, drones, Lake Michigan, Michigan, United States
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