Cops enlist eagles to hunt down rogue drones

Police in the Netherlands are turning to big birds of prey to snatch drones out of the sky and bring them safely to the ground.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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Bird with a drone
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Bird with a drone

You can see the drone's light from underneath the bird's wing.

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Aerial drones are small, tricky and fast, but they have their predators. We've seen them taken out of the air by flying pumpkins, chimps, firefighters and birds of prey. Pumpkins are difficult to aim. Chimps are unreliable. Firefighters have better things to do. But eagles may be an actual solution to enforcing no-fly zones for drones.

Dutch police are trying out the idea of using eagles to snatch drones out of the sky. Politie Nederland uploaded a video of a big bird in action on Sunday to its official YouTube channel.

The footage shows a trained bird in an indoor setting. A drone takes off and hovers in the air. The bird's handler sends the large feathered friend on its way and it handily captures the vehicle in its talons before carrying the helpless machine off into a corner.

The victim drone is a T2M Spyrit quadrocopter, which is similar in size to the popular DJI Phantom series. There could be some challenges with using birds to catch drones. Larger drones might present difficulties and the trainers need to consider the bird's safety, such as protecting their feet from the rotors. The drone used in the video seems to present no problems to the flying hunter.

The trained birds come from a Dutch company called Guard From Above, which describes the idea as "a low-tech solution for a high-tech problem." Though a bald eagle features prominently in the company's advertising, Guard From Above says it uses "different kinds and sizes of birds of prey." Just don't expect them to press hummingbirds into service.

The drone-hunting bird program seems to be in the exploratory phase for the Dutch police. IEEE Spectrum reports the tests will last for a few months, at which time the experiments will be evaluated for effectiveness and a decision will be made on whether or not to deputize the birds of prey for real-life drone duty.