The next time you hear about a runaway drone buzzing over a football stadium or maybe the White House, imagine a majestic eagle zooming into view and ripping it out of the sky.
It could happen. The Netherlands National Police have teamed up with a company that specializes in using birds of prey to down rogue drones. The company, Guard from Above, says eagles are a low-tech solution to an ultramodern problem: a drone wreaking havoc at a public event, in an airfield or elsewhere.
See a demonstration of the training below:
“For years, the government has been looking for ways to counter the undesirable use of drones,” said Guard from Above founder and CEO, Sjoerd Hoogendoorn, in a statement. “Sometimes a low-tech solution for a high-tech problem is more obvious than it seems. This is the case with our specially trained birds of prey. By using these birds’ animal instincts, we can offer an effective solution to a new threat.”
Hoogendoorn declined to say how many eagles are involved in the training, specifying only that “multiple” are being used in conjunction with Dutch Police. GFA co-founder, Ben de Keijzer pointed to eagles’ speed, power and strength when they hunt, calling them “masters of the air” and said they are extremely equipped to hunt the unmanned aerial vehicles.
Animal rights activists were not so hot on the idea, however. Hoogendoorn said The Dutch National Police have asked the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research to study the possible impact on eagles’ claws, but the results are not yet known.
Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the experiment entails a serious injury risk for the beaked creatures, whose wings and claws could become tangled in the drone’s rotors.
“This is an unfair fight—pitting flesh and blood against machine—and certainly poses a risk to the birds,” she said. “Keeping birds of prey in captivity, whether using them for human entertainment or to combat human ills, already deprives them of a real life—but in this case, there is a serious risk of injury, even fatal injury, to the birds from fast-moving propeller blades.”
Newkirk compared tapping eagles to intercept drones to drafting horses to deliver mail.
“Drones move quickly and unexpectedly and have even injured human operators who knew exactly what they were working with. A bird belongs in nature and should never be forced to put his or her life and safety at risk—something there is no excuse for in a technological age when we do not send canaries into coal mines or have our mail delivered via the Pony Express,” she said. “And given that technology exists that can jam drone signals, it’s especially egregious to treat a majestic wild animal like a piece of equipment.”
Hoogendoorn said none of the eagles have been deployed for police work just yet. They’ve participated in simulated training, but never intercepted a real drone. Deploying one in a real-life situation could take months of testing.
“They are not yet operational,” Hoogendoorn said. “Our special training takes a lot of time and involves various aspects of training. Just like training a guard dog.”
No word yet on whether the U.S. Secret Service might be interested. Somehow it seems fitting to have an eagle helping guard the air space over the White House, no?
More on drones creeping into restricted airspace: