Drones

France is raising drone-killing eagles

France has given golden eagles a license to kill (drones)
France has given golden eagles a license to kill (drones)
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France has given golden eagles a license to kill (drones)
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France has given golden eagles a license to kill (drones)

We've covered quite a few creative approaches to defending airspace from illegal drones, but if there's a cooler example than this we'd like to see it. The French military has been training baby eagles to mature into natural drone-hunters with the ability to snatch the aircraft out of the air mid-flight, local press reports.

The drone-defense strategy actually follows the lead of Dutch police, who have taught bald eagles to capture drones that pose a threat to the public. That the French have deployed the same approach (albeit with golden eagles) suggests that it has some serious merit, and the innovative way they groomed the birds of prey is fascinating.

According to Agence France-Presse, three weeks after they are hatched in captivity, the military began serving the eagles dinner on top of wrecked drones. This taught them from a young age to associate drones with food, behaviour that has now matured into a highly effective way of taking down suspect aircraft.

The military has carried out demonstrations showing the buzz of the drone triggering the birds' hunting instincts, prompting them to swoop in, snatch them up and take them to ground. Following these successful interceptions, the team then reinforces the drone-food connection by rewarding the eagles with chunks of meat.

Capable of spotting a target 2 km (1.2 mi) away and flying at 80 km/h (50 mph), the eagles could be a real weapon in the effort to stop illegal drones. The military is designing mittens made from leather and kevlar (to guard against explosives) to protect the eagles' claws and is currently conducting a 24-month testing program. Eventually, they will be perched high up in the Pyrenees mountains and scan the area for incoming threats.

Source: Agence France-Presse

2 comments
highlandboy
As if anyone seriously up to no good wouldn't have sharpened metal edged propellers to stop them. Kevlar or not this sounds like a cruel use of a magnificent bird.
f8lee
Au contraire, @highlandboy - I'd guess that 99% of illegal or irresponsible drone incursions are thanks to morons too stupid or inconsiderate to understand the dangers (and some day papparazzi striving for that next big shot on someone estate). And if a real "bad guy" were to aim their drone into the engine nacelle of an incoming airliner, the sacrifice of an eagle (magnificent though it is) in the saving of the plane seems a worthwhile tradeoff.
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