Bold Eagles: Angry Birds Are Ripping $80,000 Drones Out of the Sky
Australia’s wedge-tailed eagle uses sharp talons, crack aerial combat skills to attack and destroy pricey flying machines
Daniel Parfitt’s crashed $80,000 drone after an attack by a wedge-tailed eagle.
By Mike Cherney
Sept. 29, 2017 12:10 p.m. ET
SYDNEY— Daniel Parfitt thought he’d found the perfect drone for a two-day mapping job in a remote patch of the Australian Outback. The roughly $80,000 machine had a wingspan of 7 feet and resembled a stealth bomber.
There was just one problem. His machine raised the hackles of one prominent local resident: a wedge-tailed eagle.
Swooping down from above, the eagle used its talons to punch a hole in the carbon fiber and Kevlar fuselage of Mr. Parfitt’s drone, which lost control and plummeted to the ground.
“I had 15 minutes to go on my last flight on my last day, and one of these wedge-tailed eagles just dive-bombed the drone and punched it out of the sky,” said Mr. Parfitt, who believed the drone was too big for a bird to damage. “It ended up being a pile of splinters.”
Weighing up to nine pounds with a wingspan that can approach eight feet, the wedge-tailed eagle is Australia’s largest bird of prey. Once vilified for killing sheep and targeted by bounty hunters, it is now legally protected. Though a subspecies is still endangered in Tasmania, it is again dominating the skies across much of the continent.
These highly territorial raptors, which eat kangaroos, have no interest in yielding their apex-predator status to the increasing number of drones flying around the bush. They’ve even been known to harass the occasional human in a hang glider.
Birds all over the world have attacked drones, but the wedge-tailed eagle is particularly eager to engage in dogfights, operators say. Some try to evade these avian enemies by sending their drones into loops or steep climbs, or just mashing the throttle to outrun them.