It’s the most powerful bite in the animal kingdom.
The takedown occurred during filming for Crocodile Territory
ABC technicians recovered the footage after the drone resurfaced
The documentary airs tonight
An ABC News drone took the brunt of the bite force when a saltwater crocodile leapt up and plucked it from midair while ABC cameraman Dane Hirst was filming in Darwin.
The freak event occurred during production of an ABC News multiplatform documentary, Crocodile Territory, which airs tonight.
The documentary marks the 50th anniversary of the ban on hunting the ancient reptiles in the Northern Territory.
Mr Hirst said he hadn’t long been filming when he heard the kind of sound you only hear when a saltwater croc snaps its jaws shut at breakneck speed.
“I set the drone up over a small lagoon at Crocodylus Park, and all the crocs were really skittish,” he said.
“So I thought, great, I’ll use this fellow, he’s in a stationary spot. I can get some decent shots of him.
“I lined the drone up and moved over the top of him, and as I was doing that I looked up towards the lagoon and saw a crocodile vertical out of the water and heard the great clamping noise of a crocodile’s jaws coming together.”
When Mr Hirst looked up, the drone had disappeared.
“I looked down at my controller and it was a blank screen and no connection,” he said.
While Mr Hirst missed seeing the croc take the drone down, it was witnessed by a young child who was on a tour of the park.
The grandfather of the child approached the cameraman and confirmed to Mr Hirst what he said he already knew deep down.
“I thought, oh wow, that was a brand new drone, and this is going to be a really hard one to explain to the boss,” he said.
The drone had been purchased for the shoot and was on its maiden flight when it met its unfortunate demise.
Crocodylus Park’s Emily Broomham said the drone had flown over a lagoon of large crocodiles up to five metres long before encountering some “very cheeky girls”.
“The little crocs took it down and won the day,” she said.
The drone was believed to have ended up in the crocodile’s stomach or at the bottom of the lagoon, but was found mangled and full of bite holes on the bank two weeks later.
“We were going to have a look when we [drained] the lagoon … and we were all kind of joking and laughing about it wondering what kind of condition we would find it in,” Ms Broomham said.
“Some cheeky croc had obviously found it on the bottom and thought they’d have a bit of a go at it again and they’ve dragged it up onto land for us which was awesome because it was just nice and easy to fetch out.”
The drone had been damaged beyond repair but the card with the footage survived, enabling the team to retrieve what had been shot.
“Luckily for me at the ABC we’ve got some very clever technicians and they managed to retrieve the footage,” Mr Hirst said.
The drone now hangs in the ABC News crew room as a cautionary tale.
Crocodile Territory will screen on the ABC News Channel at 8.30pm AEST tonight and be released on ABC iView and the ABC YouTube channel.
The digital version of the story can be found here.