Just about everyone in the drone industry caught wind of a news story reporting that the Dutch police are training eagles to combat drones by way of a swift take down and tackle technique. For a 20 second video, it is a pretty cool piece of content. For all practical purposes, it is one of the dumbest ideas we’ve ever seen.
It won’t take long for animal activists to jump on this story, but that needs to be addressed first. Since when is it okay to train a bird of prey to jeopardize it’s life in order to take down a piece of machinery. It’s no more acceptable than training a bear to take down out of control motorists, or training whales to patrol sea ports or take down open water pirates. It goes beyond wrong thinking that animals like Bald and American eagles are here to help clean up our motorized problems.
But that’s the second issue – what problem?!? Exactly what is the dutch police preparing for? An all out war against Phantoms and Iris’? Is there actually a belief that those machines are such a risk that we need a whole faction of well-trained birds to scramble to the skies immediately in our defense? Drones are, by nature, a good thing. If we do the right things in regulation, then drones will be a hugely important tool globally. But, does an eagle know the difference between a section 333 legal drone or a hobbyist toy drone? If that were the case, then I’d think we could be doing a lot more impactful things with trained eagles.
The most obvious issue is with respect to the endangerment of the bird itself. We know as operators that, maybe, a Phantom 3 and Iris could be taken down with little to know injury to the bird (big maybe). And certainly drones small than this could be taken down but doesn’t that kind of defeat the whole purpose of taking down drones that could pose a risk to public safety? The drones that could do damage to our citizens walking the streets are those that are capable of carrying an actual payload; a bomb, toxic substances, weaponry/guns. In order to that, you’re going to need something with 6 props or coaxial with a lot of lifting power and large propellers. An eagle would almost certainly be meeting its maker if it tried to take down anything from an S900 on up.