A lucky Massachusetts college student claims to have received the wings and control panel to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Puma drone worth $350,000 in the mail and he – or possibly she – has the pictures to prove it.
The currently anonymous student, who goes by the username Seventy_Seven, posted four pictures of the parts on Reddit on Monday afternoon.
In the 3,499 (and counting) comments that followed, the student explained that the box of drone parts arrived in a UPS storage container.
“It came in this box by itself,” the Reddit user said in one of several updates.
“I should mention that the label on the exterior was addressed to me. Nothing on the outside of the crate said it was government property. I had ordered a weightlifting bench (which I received) and this came with it. Both boxes had UPS labels with my name and address. Though an odd box, I genuinely thought it was parts for the bench I ordered, since I wasn’t expecting a freaking drone.”
Along with the drone parts, there was also a card that read, “USA Federal Property Return to: NOAA Aircraft Operations Center.”
Alarmed, the Reddit user contacted UPS.
“They told me that it was one of the undelivered packages in their office, and asked if I’ve ever had an undelivered package. I said no, but he insisted that it was mine, and said that it was up to me if I want to keep it or not.”
The worried college student was consequently forced to deal with the situation throughout the academic day.
“I’m still alive and well, and if you haven’t read already, it’s not military,” the Reddit user wrote between classes. “Regardless, it’s not mine, and I’ll be sending it to its owner unless I’m told to keep it.”
The website Vice quickly posted an impressive article about the situation, which signaled to the Reddit user that the drone parts are the property of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Seventy_Seven contacted the Vice reporter, Jason Koebler. Koebler provided the phone number of an employee of the NOAA.
“They were happy I reached out to them, and now know where their missing shipment went,” the drone recipient explained.
According to Vice, the NOAA has no idea how a random college student received the drone parts.
“We sent one of our Puma unmanned aircraft systems to Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts,” NOAA spokesman David Miller told Vice. “We sent a set of about eight boxes for this one aircraft system, and one was misdelivered by UPS.”
The package originated from an NOAA operations center at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. NOAA regularly uses various drones (but not of the type the student received) to observe hurricanes and weather-related events brewing off Florida’s coast.