Dutch police train eagles to attack drones, but here's why it won't happen in the US

Police eagles are just as awesome as they sound, but are they really a practical solution for drone defense?
Written by Kelly McSweeney, Contributor

This week Dutch police announced they are ready to use eagles to take down drones. The video footage is awesome -- majestic birds swoop down to snatch up tiny flying robots. Sure, the police already use horses for transportation and dogs for searches, but introducing a new animal assistant in this age of technology is... unexpected.

Eventually, the police plan to manage their own flock of drone snatchers, which is why they purchased eagle chicks earlier this year. But until the chicks are ready for action, the police have partnered with Guard From Above, a Dutch company that trains birds of prey to intercept hostile drones. The company was co-founded by an entrepreneur who studied drones and a falconry expert. However, most falconers would not be willing to train birds to capture drones for the police.

Master falconers spend seven years studying the ancient art and sport of hunting with trained raptors. They are typically lovers of wildlife, conservation, and the great outdoors. Although Dutch police have said that none of the eagles were injured during tests, it seems reckless to send a wild animal into an urban environment where it would be exposed to people and electrocution risks. Then there's also the added danger of grabbing a robot by its spinning blades.

The falconry code of ethics, which is published by the North American Falconers Association (NAFA), states that falconers must protect the physical and psychological welfare of their birds. According to the policy, "Falconers should take all necessary steps to remove or mitigate the known risks of electrocution, engine exhaust (carbon monoxide) poisoning, injurious squirrel bites, collisions with fences, injury due to extremes of temperature, etc."

Dutch Police spokesman Dennis Janus told AFP, "We haven't found any other method to intercept the drones, but we are continuing to explore other possibilities." There are better ways to defend against unwanted drones: machine guns, lasers, and electromagnetic jamming, for example. Tokyo police have even practiced capturing drones with nets.

We reached out to the president of NAFA, and he declined to comment, other than to say that he can't imagine such a thing taking place in the US anytime soon. He said that when the Pentagon inquired about whether we could implement a similar program in the US, he told them the same thing: it's extremely unlikely.

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