Remember a week ago when the Internet went crazy for that video of an eagle attacking a drone?
Most of us watched the anti-drone trial by Dutch company Guard From Above and, in the same way you might react to an attention-seeking YouTuber sucking down a quart of motor oil, we all awkwardly murmured: “Yeah, that’s –um – something.”
After we had time to digest the animal welfare implications inherent in deploying a bird against a machine that is almost nothing but spinning rotors, many concluded this might not be the best idea.
Officials in the United Kingdom, however, gazed upon the Raptor-vs-UAV epic and said: “That looks about right! May we have one, please?”
This week, Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said his department may consider the use of birds of prey to take out errant drones – especially those found flying near restricted areas.
According to a report in the Times of London, Hogan-Howe ordered a senior officer to evaluate the feasibility of turning a drone-hunting raptor loose in London after he watched the video in which Guard from Above films an eagle snatching a UAV in midair as part of a trial for Dutch national police officials. The company claims it is the first such organization to release birds against UAVs.
“As would be expected in an organization that is transforming, we take an interest in all innovative new ideas and will of course be looking at the work of the Dutch police use of eagles,” a Scotland Yard spokesperson told British media.
Meanwhile, a Scottish Member of Parliament is suggesting raptor rangers may be used in the formation of a new drone-busting initiative.
“Training eagles to bring drones down safely is something Police Scotland could look at,” said MP Douglas Chapman in a recent interview. The legislator says he plans to suggest the program with the Defence Select Committee.
However, animal-welfare experts are condemning the idea. “What’s surprising is that people think using live eagles to hunt drones is a good idea. It’s not. It’s not a good idea at all,” said National Geographic writer Nicholas Lund. Lund, who works with avian-welfare groups DC Audubon Society, Lights Out DC, and Delta Wind Birds, warned that drone blades, especially carbon fiber ones, can seriously hurt a raptor.
“If an eagle were to misjudge its attack, or if the drone operator were to take evasive or defense maneuvers, a bird could be struck by the blades and seriously injured or killed,” he said.
Experts add that Guard from Above’s claim that raptors’ natural hunting instincts would mitigate injury is false. “Bald eagles do not normally take prey out of the air in the wild,” Lund said. Kent Knowles, president of the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, adds: “Bald eagles are not bird predators — they eat fish and carrion. Bald eagles are not falconry birds. It’s dangerous because drones are not like anything bald eagles or other birds of prey find in nature.”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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