Aah, the great battles of history. David versus Goliath, Saint George and the Dragon, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, shark versus underwater drone ... Wait, what? Okay, so this particular showdown won't make the history books, but it's still pretty cool.

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According to a post over at Hackaday, this awesome shark-versus-drone encounter comes to us thanks to a partnership between the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Discovery Channel. Back in 2013, the team took an AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) called REMUS, fitted it with six GoPro cameras and an acoustic homing array, and then deployed it in the waters off Mexico's Guadalupe Island to film great white sharks doing their thing in their natural environment. 

The animals had been tagged with acoustic beacons, allowing the REMUS AUV to track them through the water and send information about their movements and behaviour back to the researchers.  

When their AUV began behaving strangely and lost communication, the team knew something was up. As soon as the device surfaced, some distinct gashes in its aluminium hull came into view. A look at the GoPro footage quickly revealed the culprit.


The footage, complete with metal-crunching sounds, shows a great white attacking from below the AUV in what the team suspects was a case of mistaken identity. At the time of filming, the sharks were feeding on seals, so the most likely explanation is the great white thought the drone was just another tasty lunchtime treat.

Aside from capturing underwater battles and allowing top predators to test their mettle (see what I did there?), autonomous drones like this one help researchers gather invaluable information about the daily lives of sharks and other marine creatures. They’re also relatively inexpensive and can be operated from a laptop computer, making them a great option for scientists around the globe.