Trained eagle destroys drone in Dutch police video

The Dutch National Police released a video that shows huge birds of prey flying through the air and grabbing small, consumer drones out of the sky

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The Independent Online

For hundreds of years in the skies over Asia, people have used eagles to hunt down prey with deadly results.

That tradition has been in decline for decades, but now the bird's keen eyesight, powerful talons and lethal hunting instincts are being used to take out a new kind of 21st-century vermin: drones.

The animal vs. machine moment is brought to you by Guard From Above, which describes itself as "the world’s first company specialized in training birds of prey to intercept hostile drones."

Its latest customers are Dutch police, who are looking for ways to disable illegally operating drones. A police spokesperson told Dutch News.nl that the effort remains in a testing phase, but called the use of birds to combat drones a "very real possibility."

The rise of drone technology has been matched in speed by the rise of anti-drone technology, with companies creating radio jammers and "net-wielding interceptor" drones to disable quadcopters, according to the Verge.

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“For years, the government has been looking for ways to counter the undesirable use of drones," GFA's founder and CEO, Sjoerd Hoogendoorn, said in a statement released to the media. “Sometimes a low-tech solution for a high-tech problem is more obvious than it seems. This is the case with our specially trained birds of prey. By using these birds’ animal instincts, we can offer an effective solution to a new threat.”

A video released on Sunday by police shows an eagle swooping in at high speed to pluck a DJI Phantom out of the air using its talons. The drone is immediately disabled as the bird carries it off.

"The bird sees the drone as prey and takes it to a safe place, a place where there are no other birds or people," project spokesman Marc Wiebes told Dutch News.nl. ‘That is what we are making use of in this project."

Eagles' talons, as the New York Daily News points out, are known for their bone-crushing grip, but whether they could be damaged by carbon-fiber propellers is unknown.

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According to a study cited by Wired in 2009, raptors' talons are finely-tuned hunting instruments:

"...accipitrids, which include hawks and eagles, have two giant talons on their first and second toes," the article notes. "These give them a secure grip on struggling game that they like to eat alive, “so long as it does not protest too vigorously. In this prolonged and bloody scenario, prey eventually succumb to massive blood loss or organ failure, incurred during dismemberment.”

A handler in the video, the Daily News notes, claims the birds are adequately protected by scales on their feet and legs, but researchers hope to equip the animals with another layer of defense.

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An eagle becomes caught in a drone it has just taken down

Dutch News.nl reported that the decision about whether to use the eagles is still several months away.

Copyright: Washington Post

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