EGLE drone drowned by eagle dredged

You know that drone which we reported to have lost turf war with a bald eagle and got drowned in lake Michigan?

It was dredged up on Tuesday, muddy and dripping wet, with a missing propeller as evidence of its harrowing last flight.

On a fateful July 21, 2020, the Phantom Pro 4 – a thousand-dollar property belonging to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) – had been mapping out the extent of erosion on the Lake Michigan shoreline, under the watchful control of the department’s environment quality analyst and drone pilot Hunter King, when a bald eagle suddenly pounced, sending the drone hurtling to the bottom of the lake after a brief scuffle.

With the eagle involved still unavailable for comment, it is still unconfirmed whether the initial quarrel got started because of invaded air space and/or the assertion that the eagle was furious over its wrongly spelt name.

It’s EAGLE, not EGLE.

In the meantime, EGLE technicians are working on getting the drone’s own testimony by retrieving the drone damage report and more information from the SD card, which will unfortunately not contain any visual evidence of the fight; at the time it was attacked, the drone was in ‘Return Home’ mode and therefore not recording at the time.

The drone was pulled out of Lake Michigan’s muddy bed by EGLE’s newly formed Willful Eagle Trauma Team Engaged in Retrieval (WETTER), at almost the exact GPS coordinates of its frantic final Mayday transmission. With two previous rescue efforts failing because it was too murky to see without specialised underwater gear, the WETTER team went in prepared this time, armed with an underwater camera and side-scan sonar unit. But they were surprised, almost disappointed to discover the tannin-darkened murk had been cleared by shifting winds and currents.

“We wish we had a story where we located it with the sonar and the camera and pulled it up,” said Brian Eustice, a geologist with EGLE, who was working with other geological technicians Mike Priebe and Brian Lowe during the hunt. “But it was just right there. We couldn’t believe we found it so easily.”

The Phantom was upside down, with no further evidence of damage aside from the missing propeller.

EGLE drone operators are exploring methods of going about their future operations with no feathers ruffled and no drones attacked.

They also disbanded the WETTER unit soon after retrieving the drone, obviously not keen on provoking another force nature with a pesky acronym.


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