Tom Wagenbrenner's picture

Death by Angry Birds

Not the video game, but ACTUAL birds, and boy were they pissed! I was flying my Phantom high over the River Blanda in northern Iceland near Blonduos, during the extended golden hour that occurs during the peak of the midnight sun phenomenon. After shooting some stills and 4k video, I dropped down to about 20 feet off the water and began to follow the river toward the sun.

When I spun the drone to look behind me, I quickly saw that I was not alone: there was a long, long, LONG line of Arctic Terns in hot pursuit. As it turns out, the current nesting season was about 2 months longer than the norm and and was still in full swing. Arctic terns are the very birds that inspired Hitchcock to make his classic The Birds, and they were displeased to the extreme when a weird looking white plastic intruder zipped above their nesting grounds on one of the islands, emitting a sounded similar to the kind made by a vast swarm of angry hornets.

I put the drone into the quicker "sport mode," dropped to about 5 feet of altitude and began the mile-long dash to the car. After crossing multiple threads of that river with it's many islands, I finally made it to a farmer's plot, and with only 200 yards or so it seemed like I had ditched to flying mob and crossed into safety. But....just then I noticed a tiny spec in the sky rapidly approaching the drone. The spec turned into a solitary, highly motivated tern, which proceeded to crash hard into the drone, side-checking it out of the sky, before returning to its nesting ground.

The drone crashed and rolled into the tall grass as the video abruptly ended. Only the HUD and live telemetry data remained.

I jumped out of the car, crossed a very sketchy footbridge over a hidden thread of water 15 feet or so below, entering the field. Following the digital breadcrumbs in the HUD, I pinpointed the exact spot where my brand new Phantom 4 lay dead and crushed, two of its four rotor arms nearly severed, hanging loosely above the mangled gimbal.

At least I got the damn card.

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