A bald eagle took down a government drone in Michigan, state officials said Thursday.
The bird of prey attacked the Phantom 4 Pro Advanced quodcopter drone about 162 feet in the sky on July 21, “tearing off a propeller and sending the aircraft to the bottom of Lake Michigan,” according to the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.
“The attack could have been a territorial squabble with the electronic foe, or just a hungry eagle,” the department said.
An environmental quality analyst and drone pilot, Hunter King, was mapping shoreline erosion on Lake Michigan with the device, which was flying at 22 mph, when it began twirling out of control and he spotted an eagle flying away, it said.
A bird-watching couple that was nearby said it saw the eagle strike something and appear to fly away uninjured, department officials said.
A search for the drone days later was unsuccessful. The device was 150 feet offshore, in about 4 feet of Lake Michigan water, the department said.
A state drone coordinator, Authur Ostaszewski, used a kayak and snorkeling gear in his unfruitful search, state officials said.
The $950 drone is obsolete and will be replaced with a newer model, the department said.
Bird strikes aren’t unusual for drones. The Federal Aviation Administration has studied the issue in depth, including analyzing impacts using simulated birds.
Technology publication 3D Insider last year published a guild for amateur drone operators about how to avoid bird strikes.
The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said one idea it’s exploring is using coverings for the devices that would make them look less like seagulls.