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Does Using Eagles to Take Down Drones Make Sense?

As the collective paranoia and fear mongering in relation to “drones” heightens, more and more companies come up with ways to intercept the flying vehicles and gain extensive press coverage in the process. Most of them make into national headlines around the world so the “let’s find a way to mix in drones with our message” recipe seems to be working ever again. And media outlets run the news like there is no tomorrow because they feel that their viewers fear, oppose or even hate “drones” from some reason. Pretty sad to see.

We have seen projects that are hard to take seriously like the Rapere which intends to tangle the rotors of a quadcopter to electronic means like jammers. Few of these projects seem to realize that the fact that “drones” are now considered aircraft in their main market which is the US. Over here, flying them requires registration with the FAA and a number similar to the “tail numbers” of airplanes and helicopters is assigned. Interfering with flying aircraft like shooting them down or forcing them to the ground is a federal crime and could result in penalties far more severe than the ones imposed on an unregulated quadcopter flight. Willfully damaging or disabling an aircraft can land you a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Here is what jurisdiction says:

“Whoever willfully sets fire to, damages, destroys, disables, or wrecks any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States or any civil aircraft used, operated, or employed in interstate, overseas, or foreign air commerce…shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years or both.”

Animals have historically been trained for military purposes which attempts to use nature for warfare have been equally appalling except for maybe the situations where dogs risk their lives to save people. We have all heard about dolphins trained to carry bombs during cold war which I hope was a conspiracy theory, though they are said to be used to find underwater mines as of today.

A company in The Hague of Netherlands now runs with the headline ” We Are Using Birds of Prey to Intercept Hostile Drones”. And that perfectly describes what they are doing. They trained eagles to take a small quadcopter out of the sky. Kudos to the bird of course as the snatch was perfect, well at least in the “short teaser” video the company released and you can see below. What they mean when they mention “hostile drone” is yet to be clarified, but I agree there could be a situation where preventing a small drone from flying over a crowd could make sense. How much it is likely that the eagle can be delivered to the location before the battery runs out of juice is a question but it’s “technically” possible.

Imagine if you’re flying fpv view and you get hit by an eagle in your drone and it takes you down. That would be a trip.

If you look at the video at the same time, you will see that the Dutch Police and the training company uses a lightweight toy drone which actually has a similar size to the most popular DJI phantom, but weighs much less, so it takes a lot less motor power to keep them airborne. Even that one keeps chopping the eagle’s legs but these birds of prey have strong claws and tough skin on their legs to escape damage when they catch a rabbit or a snake. What would happen when trying to snatch a more reasonably sized quadcopter is something I would not like to see. Why? Because I think that yet again this is a PR stunt performed by the bird training company which is very sad, but probably makes a lot of sense from the marketing point of view. If we use common sense, it makes much less sense from the practical point of view and the main reason is not necessarily the risk it might pose to the poor feathered friends. Though that is an important point as well. Anyhow, see the video for yourself as the performance of the eagle is impressive and let’s cross fingers that police will not patrol the streets with an eagle on their shoulders as that would be pretty awkward. Wouldn’t it?

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Does Using Eagles to Take Down Drones Make Sense?

7 comments

  1. Fully agree that it’s just a publicity stunt. Think about the risks involved, eagle damages drone but doesn’t get a good grip – drone falls out of sky – eagle damages drone & hurts itself – drone falls out of the sky etc etc
    It’s a shame that it’s another “news” story that puts drones in a negative light, something to be protected against……..

  2. The Audubon Society also noticed the stunt and questioned the import of a bird of prey that does not normally exist in the Netherlands. I call this one of the ten dumbest ideas yet.

    There is absolutely no factual evidence to support the fear and ignorance around small personal drones. There have been more than a million hours of flight of small drones, yet there is not one verifiable report of a drone crash in the US that resulted in a serious injury as defined by the NTSB to someone not connected to the flight. Not one. (A Band-Aid is not a serious injury- See CFR 49 §830.2). It is a safety rate that all other segments of aviation would be jealous to have.

    Small UAVs do not pose any significant risk to anyone. “Dangerous” and “invasion of privacy” concerns are ridiculous, driven by paranoia borne of ignorance and propagated by lazy, irresponsible reporting. Where’s the blood and mayhem to justify the perception that small personal drones are a threat to public safety?

  3. I agree completely with the publicity stunt comments. I feel sorry for the poor journalists who try to justify their jobs creating sensationalism instead of reporting the facts. I feel even more sorry for the poor bird that is trained to intercept what if approached from the wrong angle is basically a flying Quisinart. Spinning plastic props are bad enough. But a glass reinforced prop will win this altercation every time. Stupidity reigns supreme here.

  4. I feel sorry for the bird of prey which undoubtedly will get injured trying to catch a multicopter, this then drifts into the realm of animal cruelty ie causing unnecessary injury to an animal which as I understand in the US will soon become a penal offence.

  5. That would have to be the most reckless, irresponsible and stupid thing I have seen.
    I think this is animal cruelty the poor bird has been trained and does not know better
    and goes against its natural instincts that is why it is cruel and it WILL hurt this beautiful bird.
    (I thought the Eagle was a protected species)

    I am a licensed UAV pilot and I am in favour to catch illegal drones but it should be
    done technically and there are plenty of these options.

    I make no apologies for my views.

  6. Might be useful for “flyaways” 😀 Apart from that downright dangerous,especially with powerful quads and hexi’s,which once stalled could cause considerable damage to anything below if the raptor loses it’s legs..Stupid!

  7. I wouldn’t trust the eagle to do a proper job of keeping a hold of the drone, and I’d be worried about the eagle itself getting hurt… it’s just a bad idea across the board. Fun idea, but a bad one.

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