They’ve been hailed as a highlight of new technology, but drones might actually be doing more harm than good. Now a firm in the Netherlands is taking a unique approach to taking down these small flying devices—training eagles to do the work for them. See video below.
There are a lot of positive aspects to drones, but an increasing amount of the small, unnamed devices are getting in the way and putting aircraft at risk, causing security threats, conducting illegal or unwarranted surveillance, flying in dangerous patterns at public events, and even dropping illegal items into jails. In just the last few months there have been multiple reports of drones coming dangerously close to commercial airplanes. In England, reported sightings of drones flying around prisons increased from two in 2014 to 33 in 2015, with drugs and cell phones supplies found near one prison, believed to have been dropped by a low-flying drone.
As terrorism threats increase daily, especially in Europe, there is growing concern that seemingly innocent drones are actually surveying a location or preparing for a large terrorist strike. A variety of anti-drone measures have already been taken, including using defender drones or buckshots to remove or shoot down suspicious drones. Other organizations have tried jamming drone signals with mixed results. Numerous government and private companies are researching safety measures for drones, but one company is having success with an old-fashioned security technique.
Eagle Drone Assassins: A Unique Approach
As hunting birds, eagles naturally stalk their prey and grab it from the sky, the ground, or a nest. The birds have a perfect combination of keen eyesight, quick speed, and razor-sharp talons to swiftly bring down their prey. Now, those natural tendencies are being bridled to keep the skies safe from potentially dangerous drones. In the Netherlands, an abandoned military airfield is now the home to a different kind of security training—this time with birds.
In 2014, Dutch security consultant Sjoerd Hoogendoorn and bird handler Ben de Keijzer formed Guard From Above, a company based on the idea that sometimes the best way to combat a high-tech threat is with a low-tech solution. Instead of shooting down drones and causing them to crash and bring potential danger to people and buildings below, eagles can remove a drone from the sky and carry it to safer ground, allowing security officials to examine the drone as needed. Early tests of the birds have drawn attention from security officials around the world because of the innovation, simplicity, and success of the idea.
Aside from being large and magnificent birds, eagles also work well with trainers. The eagles in the Netherlands were tasked with catching drones and receive a large piece of meat for successfully completing their task. So far, the training has gone fairly well. One of the largest concerns has been the safety of the birds, especially what could happen if an eagle was struck by the blades of the drone. The training eagles currently have scales attached to their talons for safety, but a more protective glove is in the works to remove even more risk from the process. With the basics in place, it doesn’t take much to fine-tune the eagle training process for ultimate efficiency and success.
Future Defenses Against Drones
If all goes well with tests in the Netherlands, it might not be long until we see eagles deployed to take down drones throughout the rest of the country. There are differing ideas to how the countrywide program would be implemented, but perhaps eagles would be sent out in high-traffic areas or after dark in certain places. Depending on the success of that effort, the practice might expand to England. The Metropolitan Police Service in London is apparently looking into using birds to take down drones.
As drones become more prolific and technology changes to enhance their capabilities, a variety of measures will need to be taken to ensure citizens around the world stay safe. Perhaps the Dutch are on to something and the best way to protect ourselves from devices of the future is to take a step back with a defense system of the past.