Saturday, March 20, 2021

Military drone washes ashore on Boynton Beach, Florida; Air Force says drone used in training by 53rd Wing based in panhandle

It may have been a dud, but a U.S. Air Force drone was scary enough to have police and salvage personnel scramble to the beach in upscale Ocean Ridge on Friday.

The orange aircraft is used for target practice, but it survived whatever maneuver was executed far offshore with minimal damage to the tail. It eventually washed up on the beach before 7:30 a.m., said Police Chief Hal Hutchins.

“One of the beach walkers stopped at the Boynton Inlet, knocked on the marine enforcement officer’s door, showed him a picture and said, ‘I was just walking the beach and I found this and thought you might want to know,’” Hutchins said.

Before a crowd could gather, police had put up yellow tape around the drone and warned other beachgoers to stay back. The barrier island town east of Boynton Beach stretches from the Boynton Beach inlet to south of Woolbright Road and Douglas Drive near Briny Breezes.

“We have a protocol for anything that has a possible explosive, possible fuel leakage, possible hazardous materials that we implement,” Hutchins said.

The device was removed from the beach about 1 p.m. and was taken to Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park in Boynton Beach. It will likely end up at Tindall Air Force Base near Panama City, officials said.

It has clear USAF markings on the side including instructions that read: “USAF aerial target — live munitions — civilians leave in place — contact USCG channel 16 or call [two phone numbers]. Gov. if found maintain positive control.”

This was nothing new for Hutchins.

“We have flares wash up, we have large buoys wash up, we’ve had other munitions wash up over the years,” he said. “If you’ve been working the beach for some time you understand that the Gulf Stream and Mother Nature do strange things.”

OCEAN RIDGE, Florida — A U.S. military target drone washed ashore Friday on the beach at Ocean Ridge Hammock Park.

The drone was discovered Friday morning by a passerby on the north end of the beach, Ocean Ridge Police Chief Hal Hutchins said.

"The item is a drone from the U.S. Air Force," Hutchins said.

Hutchins said police followed the instructions on the drone for what to do if it was found.

Police closed off the area while they waited for the Air Force to reclaim it.

"As long as it's out here, we'll be out here with it," Hutchins said. "But, as you can see, it is safe for people to be around. We've assured everyone that it is safe. We've been assured by the sheriff's office and the Air Force that there is no danger to anyone going near it."

The drone was eventually removed from the beach and towed to the Boynton Beach Inlet.

Air Force 1st Lt. Savanah Bray said the target drone was used for training with the 53rd Wing out of Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City. Bray said the drones are typically retrieved from the water after trainees shoot them down, but this one happened to wash ashore.

"It's not quite as random as you might think," Bray said in a telephone interview. "There's nothing dangerous in it, nothing concerning. Like I said, we recover these on a regular basis and sometimes we're just unable to."


  1. These types of drones do not carry explosives. They're simply targets for practice.

  2. BQM-167A aerial target, Cost: $570,000 a copy. Launched from Tyndall over the military’s testing ranges in the Gulf of Mexico, drifted around until coming ashore on the Atlantic side.

    Electronic scoring system allows multiple usages, can be recovered by a parachute recovery system either from land or water. Recovered targets are repaired, tested and reused. Actual live ordnance shoot down probably a no-no in AF training with these.

    Parachute recovery:

  3. These drones are capable of shooting decoy flares. They are powered by a turbojet engine that produces around 1000# thrust.