(News article from the Sedona Daily Reader)
Drone spots flying arachnid over red rocks
By KIP MOONEY
Sedona Daily Reader
SEDONA, Ariz. – Sedona Eye’s maiden flight took a turn for the weird on Tuesday when the controversial drone’s robotic cameras captured what appeared to be a tarantula flying through the air.
A screen capture provided by Flight Services, L.L.C. owner Diana Sturgis, backed up that claim on Wednesday. According to Sturgis, the Eye was coming in for a landing at the West Sedona Sugarloaf Trailhead when something passed in front it. That something, after closer examination, proved to be what looked like an Arizona Blonde Tarantula, typically known as the Desert Tarantula, she said.
“Once we grabbed an image from the playback and got a good look at it, we were pretty amazed to see this giant spider staring back at us,” Sturgis said. “Our sUAS (Small unmanned aircraft systems) was at least 600 feet in the air at that point.”
Sturgis compared the image to a Google search for Arizona tarantulas and quickly determined the type of arachnid spotted high in the air over the city, but nowhere did her search reveal an uncanny ability to fly without wings.
“The sUAS didn’t track where it went unfortunately. What was a tarantula doing soaring through the air so high up?” she asked.
Neil Thomas, Arizona Fish and Game biologist, offered a likely explanation for the odd sighting. According to him, it isn’t uncommon for a bird of prey to capture a tarantula to enjoy as a light snack while looking for larger meals.
“A juvenile Northern Goshawk, for example, might snatch one off the ground. In this case, it might have dropped the thing later, and from a decent height,” Thomas said.
Discounting a suicide attempt from the tip of Coffee Pot Rock, Sturgis said she was inclined to believe Thomas’s explanation.
“It’s still a weird sight. Not what we were expecting to see fly across the camera,” she said.
The Sedona Eye, operating on an FAA flight permit granted to Flight Services last December, has met with a great deal of resistance from community members in recent months, who fear the drone could be used for spying and government purposes. Sturgis, meanwhile, has said the Eye would only be used for permitted applications related to public safety and agricultural work. A second test flight is planned for next month, she added.
“We’ll likely stick with the same flight plan, but I hope there aren’t any more flying spiders this time,” Stugis joked.
Mantula will return.