Linda Poon is a staff writer at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
In the battle between unmanned vehicles and birds of prey, talons win every time.
Birds may actually be man’s best friend: Pigeons can now diagnose cancer, vultures are helping Peru fix its garbage problem, and eagles in London offered a real bird’s-eye view of the city. And in birds’ latest bid to win us over, eagles have now teamed up with police in the Netherlands to take out rogue drones.
Crashes there involving drones have been on the rise, with the Dutch police receiving 27 reports by mid-2015. Eleven of those incidents involved drones landing too close to people or buildings. That’s a sharp spike from 2013, when only 15 incidents were reported for the entire year.
In hopes of lowering the number of future incidents, the national police have come up with what they call “a low-tech solution to a high tech problem,” using nature’s most magnificent birds of prey. And they’re showing off their idea in a video (in Dutch):
Bald eagles and their white-tailed cousins are being trained to recognize the drones as prey and snatch them in mid-air. One minute, a four-propeller drone is whirring about in a enclosed space; the next, an eagle swoops in and carries it away.
“What I find fascinating is that birds can hit the drone in such a way that they don’t get injured by the rotors,” said LeBaron. “They seem to be whacking the drone right in the centre so they don’t get hit; they have incredible visual acuity and they can probably actually see the rotors.”
The Dutch police, who still need to figure out how effective the birds will be in crowded places, will decide by the end of this year whether to put their plan into action. Perhaps it will help that eagles—and wildlife in general—don’t seem to be big fans of drones anyway: