Air Force target drone washes up on Florida beach

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — A 20-foot-long (6-meter-long) U.S. Air Force drone that had been shot down in target practice was found washed ashore Friday on a Florida beach, authorities said.

Beachgoers at Ocean Hammock Park near Boynton Beach found the unmanned orange target-practice aircraft, the Palm Beach Post reported. Police removed the drone from the beach Friday afternoon and returned it to the Air Force, Ocean Ridge Police Chief Hal C. Hutchins said.

The BQM-167A drone was remotely launched from Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City and used as an aerial target for fighter pilots, U.S. Air Force Lt. Savannah Bray said. The $570,000 piece of military equipment was not dangerous to handle, Bray added.

“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 (312-kilogram) drone, which can travel at speeds up to nearly 700 mph (1,125 kph), was shot down in the Gulf of Mexico near Eglin Air Force Base, Bray said. Bray added that the downed drone eventually made its way to the Atlantic Coast.

Officials didn’t immediately know when the drone had been launched.