John LaGrange was diving off of Solana Beach on October 30, looking for a fish to spear for dinner. Out past the surf, in about twelve feet of clear water, he noticed something lodged on a little sand crevice, between two rocks. It was a small drone that carried a GoPro camera.
With help from his son Patrick, La Grange was able to capture the drone’s video of the fateful flight. According to the last time stamp it took off on November 2, 2013, from a vacant lot on the ocean-top bluff on Border Avenue.
The drone went out over the ocean, then slowly lost power, and descended into the water. The video kept running as the camera sunk, picking up the dying battery warning beep, but also capturing swaying kelp and a few fish swimming around.
Still photos on the camera show an image of who, La Grange believes, was the drone’s pilot, along with the front of a house in Solana Beach. On November 4, LaGrange believes he found that house, and left a note on the front door, hoping to reunite the camera with its owner.
GoPro crashes into the ocean
The last footage from a quad copter drone recovered from 12 feet of water off south Solana Beach. It was found one year after the date of the last recording.
“I found the camera only a few hundred feet from where the video shows it went into the water,” says LaGrange. The drone was side down in the sand, due to the weight of the motors being on top of the unit. “It's amazing it survived,” added LaGrange.
Earlier models of the hobbyist drones, such as the one La Grange found, would simply fall slowly back to the ground when the batteries went low. Newer versions now use GPS guidance to return the devices to the place of origin, even if the controller is unable to maneuver due to weather, dying batteries, or loss of transmission range.
The LaGranges posted the camera’s video on YouTube. LaGrange asks for anyone recognizing the pilot to contact him. (One may contact LaGrange through the Solana Beach lifeguard station or through this author’s Reader contact link.)