BY: NATHANIEL ASTUDILLO
As flying drones grows as a hobby, law enforcement around the world is looking for ways to combat unauthorised flight. In the Netherlands, police are exploring the possibility of using eagles. As birds of prey, they have sharp eyesight and even sharper talons. Paired with their innate aptitude for snatching things out of the sky, they’re ideal candidates for drone retrieval.
According to the company currently training the eagles for police use, getting the birds to attack the drones is the easy part, but retrieval is harder. To get the eagles to bring the drones in, the trainers had to reward the birds with some tasty meat, B.F. Skinner style.
Their conditioning has been successful, and there’s video footage of the birds in action inside a training ground. They take off from their handler’s arm, zip over and grab hold of the drone and drag it to the ground.
Not surprisingly, the drones are pierced by the eagle’s talons and destroyed in the process,. Sjoerd Hoogendoorn of Guard from Above said, “It’s a major cost of testing.”
Costly as the drones may be, other methods of drone control have even higher price tags. A company by the name of Liteye uses directional radio antennae. Aircraft giant Boeing uses a laser. Japanese police use a larger drone carrying a net.
Regardless of the retrieval method, unauthorised drones are a privacy and safety concern. Many drones come equipped with cameras or camera mounts. This allows photographers and videographers to take shots they couldn’t otherwise but also opens up a window for people with more dubious objectives. There’s also a cause for worry where air traffic is concerned. Airports are a big no-fly zone for drones, as are the locations of natural disasters. Both are areas where pilots need to be able to fly unimpaired. The issue has even spawned the slogan, “If You Fly, We Can’t.”
Where there might be trouble, regulation soon follows. Here in Toronto, you need a permit to fly a drone. It adds a loop to jump through, but hey, safety first. In fact, safety is so high-priority that NASA and Verizon have signed an agreement to develop a network that monitors civilian drones via cell towers. If a space agency is getting involved, then you know it’s a big deal.
Regardless of possible risks, flying a drone is enormous fun. So long as you check your by-laws and keep your cameras pointed at things that don’t invade people’s privacy, your drone probably won’t end up as an eagle’s stress toy.