Battle of the skies: Eagle takes on DJI Phantom 4 Advanced

Eagles have been flying since, well, a very long time ago. DJI Phantoms have been flying since roughly 2012-2013. So, in a battle for supremacy of the air, who might win? Wait, as we walk you through aerial combat where there can be but one winner.

This all happened last month in the skies above Lake Michigan. A government of Michigan post reveals that there was some high-flying combat between a drone and a bald eagle. What’s even more remarkable is that the drone was being operated by a pilot with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. The acronym for that depart? EGLE. So the stage has been set for an eagle vs EGLE showdown in the great state of Michigan.

RIP, Phantom 4 Advanced

The drone was a Phantom 4 Advanced, on a mission mapping shoreline erosion. Drone pilot Hunter King, who is also an environmental quality analyst, when the connection between the remote and the drone started to get spotty. King was about seven minutes into the flight when the anomaly surfaced. He pushed the Return to Home button.

Signal improves

As the drone started to return to base, the signal improved. But, as King monitored the screen, suddenly the flight started to fall badly apart. The drone was spinning in the air for reasons unknown. Spinning, falling, spinning, falling — splash. The drone was in the drink.

“It was like a really bad rollercoaster ride,” said King.

What had happened?

Eagle vs. EGLE

Bald eagles, and many other birds, are tremendously territorial. If a drone appears to be a threat, many birds will not hesitate to attack it. And that’s what happened with this eagle. Well, not the eagle in this photo — but the same type of eagle.

You don’t want to mess with this bird – especially if you’re a drone

The clash apparently caused a propeller to come off the Phantom 4 Advanced quite quickly, sending it into a death spiral to the water below.

When he looked up, the drone was gone, and an eagle was flying away. A nearby couple, whose pastimes include watching the local eagles attack seagulls and other birds, later confirmed they saw the eagle strike something but were surprised to learn it was a drone. Both King and the couple said the eagle appeared uninjured as it flew from the scene of the crime.

Michigan government post


Data from the flight showed that the drone had splash-landed about 150′ offshore and in about 4 feet of water. King returned and went scouring for it with a boat but had zero luck.

Eagle vs EGLE
End of the line.

If you’ve got time on your hands and feel like paddling, there’s a Phantom 4 Advanced, somewhat soggy, sitting on the bottom of Lake Michigan. Go get it.

But watch out for eagles.

Photo by Lewis Hulbert, via Wikimedia Commons