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DEATH FROM ABOVE

Watch a trained eagle take out a drone in mid-air

By Mike Murphy

What’s the best way to stop a bad guy with a drone? A good guy with a drone-fighting eagle, apparently. At least, that’s the logic of the Dutch National Police, who released a video showing off their new eagle on Jan. 31.

As drones get cheaper and easier to obtain, new dangers are beginning to appear. Drones have fallen out of the sky onto ski slopes, they’ve fallen into the stands at the US Open, and even onto the White House lawn. Some people also worry that drones could be used for terror attacks.

Instead of relying on high-tech solutions to the problem—like using another drone, perhaps—the Dutch police partnered with Guard From Above, a bird-of-prey training company, to teach an eagle to snatch drones from the sky. The police are using the eagle as a test, and if they’re happy with the results after a few months, they’ll decide whether to unleash the bird on drones in the wild.

As IEEE Spectrum reported, the Dutch Police eagle seems to have no problem taking down drones about the size of a DJI Phantom, but things could get, erm, hairy if the eagle tried to take on a bigger drones with carbon-fiber parts—found on larger drones like the DJI Inspire—that aren’t as malleable as the plastic used in smaller drones and could potentially mangle an eagle’s talons. (Guard From Above says on its site, however, that its eagle-training tactics aren’t dangerous to the birds.)

While the eagle seems to be pretty effective at taking out a drone that’s hovering, it’d be interesting to see if it’d have the same level of success against a drone whipping around at 80 mph. It seems unlikely that squadrons of eagles will comprise our drone-fighting task forces of the future, but it’s still fun to watch nature take on the machines.