Search and rescue mission under a watchful bird's eye | January 9, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

Almanac

News - January 9, 2019

Search and rescue mission under a watchful bird's eye

by Dave Boyce

A Menlo Park Fire Protection District drone on a search for a missing person in August 2018 near the marshes at the eastern end of the Dumbarton Bridge captured this image of a gull, sunlight on the Bay, and the fire district's air boat from its water rescue program.

And what was the boat crew out to rescue? The drone used to take the photo was one of two in service by the fire district, the other having been knocked out of the sky earlier in the day, perhaps by a gull, said Battalion Chief Tom Calvert. The crew seen on the boat, it turns out, was looking for the downed drone.

"We were rather certain that a bird strike had knocked it out of the sky," Calvert said. "There were gulls in the air in close enough proximity. Those things don't drop out of the sky."

Calvert acknowledged that the drones were in the gull's territory. "I get that," he said. "It makes total sense. It's their habitat. I totally get that."

It's the first "bird strike" in the four years the drone program has been running, he said. "It was a remarkable event for us," he added.

The drone was ultimately found lying in the mud, but with no evidence of damage from an attack by a bird, Calvert said. Its camera footage did not reveal anything, probably because the camera was pointed toward the ground at the time, he surmised.

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