20ft US Air Force drone washes ashore on Florida beach after being shot down in target practice
- A military drone washed ashore at Ocean Hammock Park, Florida on Friday
- Air Force officials confirmed the BQM-167A drone belonged to the 53rd Wing
- The unmanned aircraft had been shot down during target practice after being launched from Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City
- Ocean Ridge Police removed the drone and returned it to the Air Force later that afternoon
A 20-foot-long US Air Force drone briefly caused a scare in Florida on Friday after washing ashore at a local beach.
The massive orange drone, which are used as aerial targets for fighter pilots, was discovered by beachgoers at Ocean Hammond Park near Boynton Beach, authorities said.
Ocean Ridge Police officers were called to the scene after bystanders feared the aircraft could have been a missile or a bomb.
The area of the beach was evacuated and remained closed until the afternoon, when officers were able to remove the drone and returned it to the Air Force, Police Chief Hal C. Hutchins said.
A military drone was discovered at Ocean Hammock Park, Florida on Friday after washing ashore
The unmanned aircraft briefly caused a scare after beachgoers feared it was a bomb or missile
Air Force officials confirmed the BQM-167A drone belonged to the 53rd Wing and had been launched remotely from Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City
US Air Force officials later confirmed the unmanned vehicle was a BQM-167A drone that belonged to the 53rd Wing.
The drone had been shot down in target practice after being remotely launched from Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, public affairs spokeswoman Lt. Savannah Bray said.
‘This is not the first time this has happened,’ Bray said. ‘We are able to retrieve the vast majority of them, but every so often weather or winds pick up, and we are unable to recover it, and they later wash up on shore.’
The 690-pound drone, which can travel at speeds up to nearly 700mph, was shot down in the Gulf of Mexico near Eglin Air Force Base, she said. Bray added that the downed drone eventually made its way to the Atlantic Coast.
Bray confirmed the $570,000 piece of military equipment was not dangerous to handle.
The drone was removed on Friday afternoon and returned to the Air Force. Officials confirmed the piece of military equipment was not dangerous to handle
The drone was removed from the beach before being towed to Boynton Beach Inlet
Beachgoer Jeremiah Gonzales told news station Local 10 he had been walking down to the beach when an officer warned him to stay away.
‘He comes running back up and he’s like, “Hey, there’s a bomb on the beach or there’s a missile on the beach.” I was like, what do you mean?’ he said.
Chief Hutchins said the public was later informed that the area was deemed safe and that ‘there is no danger to anyone going near it.’
‘It’s a drone, so it is fuel and [people] were concerned about the fact that it is a piece of military equipment and there’s fuel in it,’ Hutchins told the station.
‘That’s why we went through our protocols to make sure there was nothing that was going to harm anybody.’
The drone was removed from the beach before being towed to Boynton Beach Inlet, WPTV reported.
Officials didn’t immediately know when the drone had been launched.
The 600lb drone is used as an aerial target for fighter pilots and can travel at speeds up to nearly 700mph