Guard From Above

A Dutch company is training eagles to take down drones

Nature fights back.

FIONA MACDONALD
30 MAY 2016
 

The use of drones is on the rise these days for lots of fun reasons, but when it comes to unmanned aerial vehicles, there are also security issues to consider: what happens if an one enters a flight path, or takes photos of things it's not supposed to? What if it carries a bomb over a crowded event? How do you take it down safely?

Well, the solution to this high-tech problem could be... eagles, according to a Dutch company that's training these keen-eyed birds of prey to take down drones on command. And we kind of love the idea.

 

It's definitely not the first time that eagles have gone after unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) - attacks have been happening in the wild ever since amateur drone use became popular.

But now Netherlands-based company, Guard from Above, is taking things one step further, by training the birds with food rewards to attack small drones, just like guard dogs.

They call it a "low-tech solution for a high-tech problem", and you can see it in action below:

Right now, there are regulations in each country that state how drones can and can't be used. But as good as these rules are, there aren't a whole lot of ways of enforcing them. 

Researchers and security experts have looked into options like jamming drone signals, or shooting the UAVs out of the sky, but in both of those scenarios, the drones usually end up crashing, which can pose a threat to people on the ground.

 

Eagles, on the other hand, habitually snatch their prey and drag it off somewhere to eat it, which is exactly what they do with drones, meaning there's no risk of a crash landing.

That's enough for police to get interested in what at first sounds like a pretty crazy idea.

As Stephen Castle reports for The New York Times, the Dutch national police force are planning on deploying the eagles "soon", dependent on further field tests. The Metropolitan Police Service in London are also looking into using birds in their drone defence strategy.

And while that sounds a little extreme - after all, drones can do some great things in the world - it's definitely something police these days need to think about. Drones have already been found too close to nuclear power stations in France, and a nuclear submarine facility in the UK.

That doesn't mean they were going to do anything wrong, but last year someone was prosecuted for flying a drone over busy football stadiums and tourist attractions - something that's strictly prohibited by international regulations, due to the risk that a drone could fall, or potentially even be carrying a weapon.

In December, a drone was found at Oakwood prison smuggling in drugs, a mobile phone, a charger, and USB cards.

"We have seen a number of incidents around airfields, and, in the end, we want to be prepared should anyone want to use a drone for an attack of some sort," detective chief superintendent of the Dutch police, Mark Wiebes, told Castle.

The problem, of course, is whether or not the eagles can be hurt by this kind of work. That's unfortunately a possibility, but as risky as the whole thing sounds for the eagles, one of the security consultants who started Guard From Above, Sjoerd Hoogendoorn, told The New York Times that safety was the top priority for the animals, and no birds have been seriously harmed so far.

They're now looking into ways they could make the birds even more secure, with the potential for protective gear to be worn on their talons, and maybe even body armour.

With new research showing the potential damage drones can have on wildlife, it's nice to see nature fight back against technology for once. Karma's a b*tch.

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