While the United States is responding to concerns over aerial drones with laser technology, thrifty Dutch police are resorting to an ancient defense against aerial enemies. The Dutch National Police have trained an eagle to bring down Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), as seen in a video released on January 31.
The video, which has narration in Dutch, shows a European eagle unleashed by a handler then swoops down on a small drone. It takes the UAV into its talons and wings away with it inside a building that appears to be a horse training facility.
Drones, of course, have become a commonplace on the battlefield and they are becoming more common in civilian airspace. Police and regulars are seeking to respond to security concerns and to the relative lack of regulations specific to the flying of UAVs. Some places, such as national parks in the U.S., have banned them entirely. Thanks to their small size and their ability to hover low over the ground, they are a unique security challenge.
In 2015, a quadcopter drone crashed onto the White House grounds and piqued the concerns of the Secret Service. That incident took place just two weeks after a drone flew over the French presidential palace in Paris.
Michigan Tech University, located in Michigan’s pristine Upper Peninsula, has responded to demands for anti-drone technology by developing an octocopter anti-drone drone that features a net that disables smaller drones. The U.S. Navy announced plans in 2014 to launch a laser weapon to take drones out of the air, while Boeing demonstrated a laser cannon in 2014 that can be used for that purpose. Elsewhere, Technologies touted to combat UAVs include a new breed of ‘interceptor’ drones. Michigan Tech University, for example, has developed an anti-UAV octocopter that uses a net to disable smaller drones.
Enemies of the United States are using sophisticated technology too. In 2011, for instance, Iran brought down an American Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) near the city of Kashmar in northeastern Iran. The drone was safely landed by its cyberwarfare unit which commandeered the aircraft and summoned it to Iranian territory. Media reports erroneously reported that it had been shot down, and the U.S. initially denied Iran’s claims. However, President Obama later had to admit that Iran did have the drone. He requested its safe return.
Iran did not return the drone, and instead reverse-engineered it and produced a copy. In addition, it released video footage that it downloaded from the drone’s memory. In 2012, an Iranian company said it planned to miniature, pink, toy versions of the captured drone to the president in response to his demand for the return of the downed drone.
In response to concerns raised about the welfare of the eagles being used against drones, the Dutch National Police released a statement saying, "In nature, birds of prey often overpower large and dangerous prey. Their talons have scales, which protect them, naturally, from their victims’ bites. Of course, we are continuously investigating any extra possible protective measures we can take in order to protect our birds. The Dutch National Police has asked the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) to research the possible impact on the birds’ claws. The results are not yet known. We are working closely with the Dutch National Police on the development of our services."