A bald eagle met a $950 drone mid-air last month and attacked the contraption, sending it plummeting into Lake Michigan, officials said Thursday.
Hunter King with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy — also known as EGLE — was piloting the drone on a mission to map erosion along the shoreline on July 21.
The department was surveying the area to document high water levels in an effort to help communities better cope with the effects, it said in a August 13 news release.
The drone had been in flight for seven minutes on its fourth day when King noticed satellite reception had gotten spotty near Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula, the agency said.
King pressed a button to call the drone home and watched the video screen as it made its journey back. But on the way, the drone began spinning.
“It was like a really bad roller coaster ride,” King said in the release.
When he looked up, he saw the drone was gone and noticed an eagle flying away.
Data from the drone’s flight records indicated its propeller had been torn off, along with 27 other warning notifications, according to the agency.
A couple watching birds nearby later told the agency they saw the eagle hit something in the sky, but they were shocked to learn it had struck a drone, the department said.
King and the couple began searching for the drone along the shoreline but came up empty. Days later, officials used telemetric data to determine the drone had hit the water 150 feet offshore in roughly 4 feet of water.
Due to poor visibility in the water, systems coordinator Arthur Ostaszewski shuffled his feet along the area in the water in the hope of finding the drone, but also emerged empty-handed, according to the department.
The drone was a $950 Phantom 4 Pro Advanced and is no longer made. The agency said it will replace it with a similar model.
The department said the incident could have been territorial attack — or just a hungry, confused eagle.