Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an ocean conservation group based out of Burbank, Calif., claims one of its drones was shot down by poachers on Sunday night over the Gulf of California.
According to the group, its vessel was patrolling for poachers of the endangered vaquita porpoise and totoaba fish when it spotted “suspicious activity” at 9:30 p.m. It then sent its night-vision DJI Matrice drone to investigate, and the aircraft flew roughly 2.8 nautical miles from the vessel until shots were fired from a skiff, the group claims.
“Upon reviewing the footage from this incident, the crew confirmed that one of the individuals in the skiff was in possession of a firearm,” Sea Shepherd says. “The crew replaced the drone’s batteries and immediately took to the sky once more to inspect another skiff 1.4 nautical miles away. At this point, they lowered the Matrice drone to 100 feet in order to get a better look at the suspect vessel. Thirteen gunshots were fired, and instantly the drone’s monitor went dark, reading ‘disconnected.'”
Sea Shepherd says its drone has been targeted previously by poachers with other objects, such as rocks, but never before with a gun.
“Our drone was shot down,” said drone operator Jack Hutton. “The poachers don’t want us looking at them, even if it means making use of automatic weapons – reaching a new level of violence.”