The Eagle is Grounded – Dutch Police Stop Using Drone-Hunting Eagles
Last year, police in the Netherlands were ready to deploy a team of eagles to take down rogue drones. More than a year later, police have determined that perhaps using massive birds of prey to tackle rogue contraptions in the sky isn’t an ideal solution. The low-tech solution first hit the headlines in early 2016 when Dutch cops showed off the seemingly impressive skills of their feathered friends. Drones such as DJI’s Phantom 4 machine were clearly no match for the bird of prey. Its sharp talons and equally sharp eyesight were able to pinpoint and pluck a drone from the sky in a single, lightning-fast maneuver.
When Dutch police first released a video showing the birds of prey grabbing drones out of the air with their claws, animal rights activists also voiced their concern. “If an eagle cannot catch his prey, he may become so frustrated that he picks up something else. Eagle talons are so strong that it can easily pierce a child’s head,” Robert Muster, a falconer was reported to have said.
Eventually however, using the birds didn’t prove to be an ideal solution because training them turned out to be more expensive and more complicated than anticipated. According to local media, the eagles didn’t always do what was expected of them, which presumably means that they were occasionally distracted by other things happening around them during training sessions. The police also had doubts if the birds would perform well outside of their controlled training environment. Dutch police had purchased four sea eagle chicks after completing their trials last year.
But there hasn’t been much call for the eagles over the last 18 months. This is, of course, a good thing as far as issues of safety and security are concerned, but it has left the police with unnecessary costs for the birds’ training and upkeep.
The police in the Netherlands have now decided to retire its team of eagles that were trained to take down rogue drones. The decision to retire the eagles will also please bird lovers who were concerned that the drones, with their fast-spinning propellers, could cause a nasty injury to an eagle if its speedy approach was just a little off. Besides, an unreliable and potentially deadly bird is not an ideal solution.
As tech companies, hobbyists, and amateurs continue to capitalize on airspace, it is important to come up with safe solutions for wrangling rogue drones. The Netherlands was the first country to tackle rogue drones in this way. Now the Dutch authorities will be exploring the options among a rapidly growing selection of high-tech solutions that are far more reliable, that can be deployed relatively quickly, act swiftly to remove a rogue drone from the sky and are cheaper to maintain, than the eagles. These include everything from net-firing bazookas and so-called “death ray” machines to anti-drone guns and drone-shield “Sky Fences.”
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