Student Receives Government Drone Via UPS

Equipment is worth $350,000; UPS now in hot water

May 7, 2014
Outside Magazine

Drones—now shipping directly to your doorstep.    Flou-Net/Flickr

When UPS came to his door, a student expected to receive the weight-lifting bench he'd ordered. Instead he saw a large black box with an official label that read "USA FEDERAL PROPERTY." Inside: what appeared to be wings and a control panel.

"Did I just get a drone in the mail?" he asked Reddit.

Indeed, the parts belonged to an unmanned aerial vehicle that goes by the name of Puma. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses it for all kinds of aerial observation, such as measuring ocean debris or conducting seabird surveys.

Only after posting photos of the mystery shipment online did the student, who goes by the Reddit username Seventy_Seven, contact UPS. The company insisted that the package was now his and that "it was up to me if I want to keep it or not," Seventy_Seven said.

Luckily for the U.S. government, Seventy_Seven did not accept that answer and contacted NOAA directly. They confirmed that they had expected a shipment of eight boxes containing drone parts, totaling $350,000 in value. One box must have been mislabeled and never made it to the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts.

NOAA was understandably irritated with the mix-up. "We did not mail the package to the wrong address—the error occurred on the part of UPS," NOAA spokesperson David Miller told Vice. UPS spokesperson Susan Rosenberg simply said, "Mistakes can be made."

See the Puma drone in action below. Unfortunately, Seventy_Seven won't be able to take it out an a test run. UPS has reshipped the rogue package, which should soon be in the hands of NOAA.

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