A US department drone pilot recently used a quadcopter to take aerial images of Lake Michigan’s coastline to monitor erosion on the shore, when a series of warnings in quick succession, flashed up ominously on his handset. One of the warnings told him that a propeller had come off the drone, and when he looked at live images of the drone camera on his iPad, he watched in horror as it began spiraling dramatically downward. As he glanced up and away from the screen, the drone had disappeared from view, and all that could be seen in the skies where it once flew, was a huge bald eagle, soaring away.
While the drone pilot couldn’t officially confirm that the bald eagle had caused the drones downfall (literally!), a couple who were close by when it happened, stated that they saw the eagle strike something as if in attack mode, and were later surprised to discover that it had been a drone. The eagle may not have actually grabbed the drone as if it were prey, but certainly it touched it in some way, most likely with its talons.
Several days later, after physical searches proved fruitless, the quadcopter – which had cost $950 – was located using iPad data, and the crash site was identified as having occurred around 150 feet from the shore, leaving he drone submerged in around 4 feet of water; subsequent searches using kayaks were unable to locate it.
As many birds and creatures are highly territorial, it’s perhaps no surprise that this particular bald eagle might have viewed the unmanned aerial object as a threat, and in a desire to protect its territory, had attacked it. Or, maybe out of hunger, the eagle had tried to capture the drone and make a rather chewy meal out of it. I guess we’ll never know. It is a widely known fact that drones have been attacked by birds in the past though, and while it may not be a common risk, it’s a significant one that shouldn’t be ignored, and some drone manufacturers are trying to devise methods and countermeasures to protect their drones from such attacks. However, it’s also quite possible that such occurrences may never be prevented entirely, and that bird/drone conflicts may be unavoidable in some instances.
It’s important that if you’re operating a drone, you do everything in your power not to cause intentional harm, stress or disruption to any living creature, and if you’re unsure of how best to do this, contact a drone specialist who can help ensure that you adhere to all state and federal laws and regulations when it comes to flying drones outside.