Drones, or miniature aircraft in the form of quadcopters, can be interesting to have. Since they are available in the market and some models are affordable too, costing lower than $100, every tech-savvy household would want one. Drones have been used for surveillance, air strikes, and data collecting by the military, while civilians, on the other hand, mainly use them for great aerial camera shots.
There are a whole lot that drones can do, including being misused. Even as laws and guidelines have been set for anyone with a drone to take note of, there will always be a rogue drone or several which can pose as hazards, mostly in crowded places or in drone off-limit areas such as airports, hospitals, and huge public events.
Drones, with irresponsible use, are basically accidents waiting to happen.
This is the case in the Netherlands as the Dutch police have received 27 reports last year of crashes involving drones, some of these close to people. The Dutch police have thought of using known methods to disable rogue drones such as nets, jamming radio controls, or another drone. The questionable measure of simply shooting these machines down seemed out of the equation. One concern is that these methods would be in vain if these drones end up going out of control or falling on peoples’ heads and other delicate areas.
So the Dutch National Police decided to team up with Guard From Above to arrive with, admittedly, a very curious solution—the use of eagles to take rogue drones down.
This is where the uproar may begin. Eagles have long been symbols of power and freedom, but now these majestic birds are subjected to a training program to test if these eagles would indeed be a solution to the drone problem. In fact, Guard From Above (GFA) calls this eagle solution “safe, quick, and accurate.”
This teaser video from GFA’s Youtube channel shows how efficient this white-tailed eagle can be. In a span of a few seconds, after the bird of prey is released along with a test drone, the eagle swiftly swoops over the drone and in an instant, the drone is in its talons. The eagle then carries the captured drone to a corner. This also shows that the eagles—along with their instincts—are trained to take these drones to a safe place away from people once they’ve snatched their mechanical quarry.
There’s no question that these eagles were chosen for their precise predatory nature, and they certainly have a way of seizing their prey mid-air. Intercepting a drone mid-flight won’t seem to be a problem; moreover, it’s observed that these eagles in training (one a white-tailed eagle, one a bald eagle), even at full flight speed, carefully avoid the drone propellers. It would be unfortunate for drones made out of plastic, but sturdier, larger drones with propellers that can damage the birds’ talons are a cause for concern.
The birds could potentially be in danger, but the Dutch Police and GFA are continuously designing the program to ensure the safety of the eagles. GFA has members who have been working with birds of prey for over 25 years, and are quite familiar with the eagles’ ways.
The eagles appear to be treated well; in fact, for every drone taken down, they are handsomely rewarded with pieces of meat. Another thing that the Dutch police have to consider is the difference between releasing the eagles in their training areas, which are controlled environments, and eventually releasing them to the skies to carry out their missions.
If the United States would look into this method, it can be trickier since eagles and other wild birds, by law, are protected species.
However, the Dutch Police have their hopes up. If the drone problem wouldn’t be solved any sooner, they would have to see how the eagles fare when the plan is placed into action at the end of the year.
GFA calls this “a low-tech solution to a high tech problem.” The eagles are here to help, and how entirely practical the solution is remains to be seen. But where does the problem really lie?
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