The ancient art of falconry is being employed to combat modern technology... literally. Dutch National Police are currently testing a program that would use trained eagles to take down problematic drones.
As the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), also known as drones, increases so do the potential problems. Governments worry about terrorists, private citizens worry about invasion of their privacy, and pilots worry about interference with flights; the list of potential problems goes on.
Governments all over the globe are scrambling to find ways to manage the influx of drones into airspace. The United States is requiring drones to be registered and Japan has a squad of officers that will hunt drones down if the owners fly them into unsanctioned airspace. The Dutch however, have found a possible solution that is unique: use the hunting instincts of trained raptors to take down the robot menace.
They have paired up with the company Guard From Above which claims to be the first company that uses "birds of prey to combat hostile drones" to develop a new use for falconry. According to the company, the technique uses specially trained birds and builds off of their natural instincts.
The police are concerned about safety first and foremost. A bulletin released by the National Police identifies that drones may be used in airspace that is off limits or can be a danger to crowds if they should fall from the sky. The operators of these drones are often not easy to find and it can be a challenge to get the drones out of the sky safely. They have released a video showing just how the process works:
The bird treats the drone as it would any prey item and grabs it from the sky. It then carries the drone to a safe place where no people or other birds can be harmed.
Although falconry is an ancient art, this is a little different and thus not without controversy. In a FAQ released by Guard From Above they address this issue:
"In nature, birds of prey often overpower large and dangerous prey. Their talons have scales, which protect them, naturally, from their victims’ bites. Of course, we are continuously investigating any extra possible protective measures we can take in order to protect our birds. The Dutch National Police has asked the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientifi c Research (TNO) to research the possible impact on the birds’ claws. The results are not yet known. We are working closely with the Dutch National Police on the development of our services. "
Ultimately, this is about protecting people. With the program still being investigated, it will be a few months before a final decision is made, but the video supplies some compelling evidence that falconry just might be a viable, long-term solution to an increasing problem.