ESCANABA, Mich. - It was only a matter of time before Michigan's environment and its environmental department collided in such a coincidental fashion.
A bald eagle apparently attacked and downed a drone piloted by an environmental quality analyst with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.
In other words, an Eagle attacked an EGLE drone.
Documented in a press release that public information officers can only dream of getting to write, "an Upper Peninsula bald eagle launched an airborne attack on a drone operated by a Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) pilot last month, tearing off a propeller and sending the aircraft to the bottom of Lake Michigan."
The pilot had been tasked with mapping shoreline erosion along the Great Lakes in Michigan due to the state's high water levels. During Hunter King's fourth flight of the day, which was near Escanaba, he was completing a seven-minute scan when satellite reception started getting spotty.
After ordering the drone to return to him, King was watching the aerial unit's video screen when it suddenly began "twirling furiously."
"It was like a really bad rollercoaster ride," said King in the release.
When he looked up, the drone was gone and an eagle was flying away.
Despite the challenges of piloting drones, there's always some variability that can make it difficult for pilots to plan for. Weather conditions are one thing, but territorial disputes between bird and machine are something else entirely.
That being said, they aren't completely out of the ordinary. Animals have been known to attack drones when they feel threatened or hungry. Or as officials at EGLE hinted at, "maybe it did not like its name being misspelled."
The aerial onslaught was confirmed by a couple who had been watching the local eagles attack seagulls and other birds nearby. Confirming they saw the eagle attack something, both the couple and King believe the eagle was uninjured afterward.
Several failed attempts at locating the drone followed, including using snorkeling equipment and scrapping along the lake bed for two hours.
The $950 drone will have to be replaced.
The department is also considering using "skins" or other designs on drones to reduce the possibility of another attack.