The Dutch National Police, which started a programme where they were hunting errant drones out of the sky using eagles, have shut it down less than two years after launching the innovative solution.
The programme was first announced in January 2016, but the department recently said that they are retiring the project owing to low demand for the drone-hunting birds and complications associated with training them.
Sea eagles were procured by the Dutch police to train them into drone hunters, notes NOS, a Dutch news outlet. One of the problems the trainers faced was that the birds would not always do what they were trained to do. This led them to have serious doubts about weather the eagles would actually perform well in the field, outside of the controlled environment.
The birds were present at events in Rotterdam and Brussels, but were not deployed, it was reported. The idea was to have the eagles remove drones that were not supposed to be in certain places, like over crowds and inside restricted zones. The eagles were also trained to carry the devices away to a designated drop off point.
While it is easier to have nets to prevent unwanted drones or simply shoot at them to take them out of the sky, the measures came with their own set of complications. A drone with a small explosive, for example, if shot out of the sky could fall and still be a threat. A bullet fired at a drone could miss and cause unintentional damage elsewhere. Eagles were seen as good options because they could be trained to not only capture a drone, but also to take them away to a safe spot.
Drones, however, could cause serious injury to the birds, notes a report by Gizmodo that quoted Robert Muster, a falconer in Enschede, as telling a Dutch newspaper last year that the spinning blades of UAVs could "make mincemeat out of an eagle".
"If an eagle cannot catch his prey, he may become so frustrated that he picks up something else. Eagle talons are so strong that it can easily pierce a child's head," he added, explaining the consequences of using eagles to take out drones from the sky.
The Netherlands was the first country to attempt to use birds to attack drones, they have since, inspired the UK and France. Recently, even the US air force was planning on training falcons to do the same.