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The increase in the use of drones by consumers is becoming problematic for countries around the world. That's because enthusiasts often take advantage of the still nascent and in some cases nonexistent laws that govern quadcopters and use the unmanned vehicles for dangerous and illegal activities. These include flying the drones in restricted airspace and even using them to infiltrate prisons.
Even those that use the remotely controlled vehicles for altruistic purposes like capturing images during natural disasters, often result in disrupting emergency rescue efforts. It is, therefore, no wonder that authorities worldwide are experimenting with new techniques to bring down rogue drones.
While many are resorting to technology, the authorities in the Netherlands have partnered with Guard from Above, a Hague-based security team that is training eagles to bring down drones being flown in restricted areas. The company believes that the birds of prey that catch victims in mid-air and hold on to them with their strong talons will easily be able to grab the drones and bring them down safely. This is important because it eliminates the risk of a disabled drone hurtling down and harming people on the ground.
This may sound dangerous given the quadcopter's rapidly moving propellers. However, bird experts are not concerned. They maintain that the bird's keen eyesight enables it to attack the drones precisely in the mid portion of the back, which means they are in no danger from the rotors that lie on each side. The National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, which tracks US bird populations, has observed wild birds attacking drones without getting injured.
Though the eagles are rewarded whenever they bring back a drone, they do not need the motivation. The birds of prey already have a dislike for drones and attack them aggressively especially, when they get close to their nests.
Guard from Above will spend the next few months testing the idea's feasibility. The one concern is the risk posed by drones that are larger in size than the eagles. If that becomes an issue, the company will have to devise protective gear to prevent the birds from getting injured.
Meanwhile, other countries are coming up with their own innovative solutions to combat the problem. In Japan, authorities dispatch quadcopters with snare nets to capture rogue drones. In Britain, officials are contemplating using new technology that can disable drones mid-flight from up to a mile away! The London Metropolitan Police has also expressed interest in employing eagles to do the job.
In the US, which has experienced more than 100 rogue drone sightings on a monthly basis since October, the officials are considering jamming radio signals and even resorting to taking them down with missiles. However, many of these approaches could result in dangerous consequences in case of a malfunction. Hence, if the eagles trained by Guard from Above are effective, don't be surprised to see more countries adopting them to protect their skies from the pesky drones.
Resources: odditycentral.com, theguardian.com,