Dutch police train eagles to rip drones from the sky

Authorities worldwide are searching for more technologically-sophisticated ways to take down errant drones, but Dutch police are looking to one of nature's greatest birds of prey to help in the hunt.

Their other proposal is a safety net, but eagles may be a safer option

An eagle surrounds its captured prey, a drone, that was sent out by the Dutch National Police in parternship with Guard from Above as part of a trial program to capture errant drones. (Politie/YouTube)

While many police departments are searching for new technology to counter recreational drones, Dutch authorities are looking to a bird of prey to help with the hunt. 

As drones get cheaper and easier to use, they've become a bigger problem for emergency vehicles like air ambulances, who need a clear airspace to land, according the Dutch National Police

So, for a trial, they've partnered with Guard from Above, which trains eagles and other raptors to tackle unmanned aircraft vehicles out of the sky.

"Two of the most impressive characteristics of birds of prey are their speed and their power. They use their strength and speed when they hunt: they are the masters of the air. By using our special training methods, we can teach them to intercept drones," Ben de Keijzer, Guard from Above's co-founder, said in a statement.

The Dutch company showed off the bird of prey's capabilities in a video released on Friday. 

The eagle appeared to do quite well against a medium-sized drone, but IEEE Spectrum magazine cautioned that they may have more trouble against larger unmanned vehicles. 

"The Dutch National Police has asked the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research to research the possible impact on the birds' claws. The results are not yet known," Guard from Above wrote in the frequently asked questions section of their press release. 

A similar program may be more difficult to implement in Canada, where some provinces treat varieties of eagles as protected species.

That said, eagles have been known to take down drones without much encouragement from the police.

 

Dutch police said that eagles are part of one of two projects they're looking to try.

The other solution is a "safety net" that would be manned by anti-drone drones. The main drawback of the net is that it's hard to predict where the drone might land, possibly creating a new danger. 

"The bird sees the drone as prey and takes it to a safe area, a place where it won't be hurt by other birds or humans. We can use that in this project," Mark Weibe, Dutch National Police's innovation manager, said in a statement

They intend to test the project during the next few months to see if using eagles to rip drones from the air with their claws is a good solution to the ongoing issue.

Other police forces have proposed similar solutions, like Tokyo's interceptor drones that carry a giant net. Another idea is to use a radio jammer that disconnects the UAV from the pilot, forcing the drone to land, according to the Verge

Canada's had its fair share of incidents with wayward drones. Earlier this year, a drone crashed into a car in Belleville, Ont., while in August a drone nearly crashed into a seaplane over Vancouver

Transport Canada said in early January that new regulations are coming.

Current guidelines say that they must be flown a minimum of nine kilometres away from airports, below 90 metres in the air, and 150 metres away from people, animals, buildings, and vehicles. 

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