Friday, February 5, 2016

Intelligent trained birds now used in fighting illegal drones.

The Dutch National Police is training eagles to capture drones flown by criminals and terrorists into restricted areas. A video reveals it is training these birds of prey to catch the menacing machines in mid-air, taking them down in one fell swoop.

The police, counter-terrorism agency NCTB and the ministries of justice and defence are working on a range of measures to combat drones, broadcaster Nos says.

Mark Wiebes, Innovation Manager of the National Unit of the police, said drone use is becoming more common, with people using them to take photographs, for example.

But they can be dangerous if they fall from the sky above crowds of people. Drones with built-in cameras also pose privacy risks.

‘There are situations in which drones are not allowed to fly. This has almost always to do with security,’ he added.

As you can see in the video above, the eagle quickly grabs the drone, seizing control from whoever is holding the remote and bringing it to the ground. The project is still in test phase but a spokesman said there was a ‘very real possibility’ that birds of prey could be used.

‘The bird sees the drone as prey and takes it to a safe place, a place where there are no other birds or people,’ Weibes said. ‘That is what we are making use of in this project.’

‘Everyone can get hold of a drone, and that includes people who want to misuse them,’ police spokesman Michel Baeten told Nos. ‘It is a multifunctional piece of equipment and that means you can launch an attack with them as well.’

The eagles have been sourced from raptor training company Guard From Above, a bird of prey training company in Denmark to test the raptors’ intelligence and accuracy. This means that they are going to be well looked after and comfortable with their handlers.

The eagles are being trained to identify and catch quadcopters, which are proving increasingly popular.

Mr Wiebe explained: ‘The bird sees the drone as prey and takes it to a safe area, a place where he does not suffer from other birds or humans.

‘We use [this instinct]in this project.’

However, there is one issue with an eagle going up against a drone is the potential for injury. The multiple rotors each drone has spin very fast and point upwards, meaning they could slice into the eagle’s leg or talons. In the video, one of the handlers says that the scales on the eagle’s legs and feet keeps them safe.

To allay this concern, there is a chance the eagles could wear armour while patrolling the skies for drones, IEEE’s Spectrum reported.

As well as birds of prey, officials are also looking into the use of high-tech detention systems and equipment which can remotely take over control of a drone. Another potential measure could be a drone which is programmed to fire at or capture an enemy drone.

According to the Dutch Police, these tests should last a few months, at which point they will decide whether using the eagles in this way is an effective and appropriate means of preventing unwanted drone use.

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