Dutch police looking to eagles to counter illegal drones

Sequence shots showing a trained eagle approaching a target drone (above), then grabbing it with its talons, before flying off with it. The idea of using birds of prey to capture drones arose following fears by police over unlicensed drones flying in
Sequence shots showing a trained eagle approaching a target drone (above), then grabbing it with its talons, before flying off with it. The idea of using birds of prey to capture drones arose following fears by police over unlicensed drones flying into off-limit spaces, such as around airports or above public events like politicians' appearances.PHOTO: REUTERS
Sequence shots showing a trained eagle approaching a target drone, then grabbing it with its talons (above), before flying off with it. The idea of using birds of prey to capture drones arose following fears by police over unlicensed drones flying in
Sequence shots showing a trained eagle approaching a target drone, then grabbing it with its talons (above), before flying off with it. The idea of using birds of prey to capture drones arose following fears by police over unlicensed drones flying into off-limit spaces, such as around airports or above public events like politicians' appearances.PHOTO: REUTERS
Sequence shots showing a trained eagle approaching a target drone, then grabbing it with its talons, before flying off with it (above). The idea of using birds of prey to capture drones arose following fears by police over unlicensed drones flying in
Sequence shots showing a trained eagle approaching a target drone, then grabbing it with its talons, before flying off with it (above). The idea of using birds of prey to capture drones arose following fears by police over unlicensed drones flying into off-limit spaces, such as around airports or above public events like politicians' appearances.PHOTO: REUTERS

THE HAGUE • Dutch police are turning to a phalanx of winged predators to solve the problem of unauthorised drone flights in restricted areas such as airports and over crowds - eagles.

Police officers, who are looking for the best way to intercept unauthorised drones, are conducting tests with the birds of prey toge- ther with a specialised Dutch company called Guard from Above, a police spokesman said on Wednesday.

"It's a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem," Mr Dennis Janus said. "We use the birds' age-old hunting instinct to intercept and neutralise drones."

Police released video footage of the tests, which show an eagle in flight firmly grasping the drone with its talons before landing a few metres away.

The eagles are trained by Guard from Above, which describes itself as the "first company in the world that uses birds of prey to intercept drones."

Mr Sjoerd Hoogendoorn, of Guard from Above, said the birds must be trained to recognise the drones as prey.

Their scaly talons are strong and tough enough to seize most consumer-grade drones without injury from the blades, he said.

"These birds are used to meeting resistance from animals they hunt in the wild, and they don't seem to have much trouble with the drones."

The potential impact on the animals' welfare is the subject of testing by an external scientific research institute, Mr Hoogendoorn added.

Another unknown factor is how the the birds will fare in a crowd situation.

The idea of using birds of prey to capture drones arose following fears by police over unlicensed drones flying into off-limit spaces around airports or above public events such as politicians' appearances.

Said Mr Janus: "For obvious security reasons, you can't fly a drone just anywhere."

He also said it is forbidden to fly drones in airports or over large crowds. "If a drone falls on somebody, it could kill."

Police are also testing a method to "hack" a drone's controls or to catch it in a net carried by another drone.

The test using birds of prey is expected to be finalised by the end of the year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2016, with the headline 'Dutch police looking to eagles to counter illegal drones'. Print Edition | Subscribe