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.”
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