Bald eagle takes down government drone, sending it into Lake Michigan

On July 21, the national bird of America attacked a government drone. 

Last month, a bald eagle took down a drone operated by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). The Phantom 4 Pro Advanced quadcopter drone had been used to map shoreline erosion when the bird of prey attacked it, ripped off its propeller and sent it to the depths of Lake Michigan. WLUC explains this further, reporting that “the quality analyst and drone pilot, Hunter King, was mapping shoreline erosion for use in the agency’s efforts to document and help communities cope with high water levels”.

EGLE drone trajectory

The drone was attacked only shortly after it had been recalled.

King had recalled the drone after seven minutes of mapping as the aircraft’s satellite had started to get spotty. On its way back to King, however, it was attacked by the bald eagle. The image above illustrates the drone’s trajectory and depicts the moment it was taken down by the bird. Although the lake has been searched for the fallen drone several times, nothing has been found.

WLUC has reported the following data regarding the drone’s flight:

  • The eagle strike occurred 7:39.7 into the flight, roughly four-tenths of a mile from King and 162 feet above the water.
  • Its speed instantly dropped from 22 mph to 10. Within a half-second the flight record shows the beginning of downward spiral along with “excessive spinning” warnings.
  • In the next 3.5 seconds, the drone sent 27 warning notifications including one indicating a propeller had been torn off.
  • Gaining momentum as it fell, its last communication came at 34 feet above the water, falling at 30 feet per second, or 20.4 mph.

Since the attack, EGLE’s drone team has been researching what precautions can be taken in order to ensure that this does not happen again. While this has undoubtedly caused a lot of trouble for the EGLE department, people on social media have found the incident extremely amusing.

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