Even though it sounds farfetched, Dutch police units had been attempting to use drone-catching eagles. The decision was met by many questions, because having trained eagles working with officers seemed extremely unorthodox; many wondered how the eagles were even trained to deal with drones, if the eagles would be safe, and how officers were trained to handle the birds at all. Dutch officers had been training the eagles since 2016, and had high hopes for their feathered friends, but in recent months they have decided that their drone-catching eagles were not as effective as they would like.
Initially, the Dutch police wanted to train eagles to catch drones because the predatory birds are excellent at catching their fast-moving prey. The eagles were meant to capture drones with their talons, quickly neutralising them and disabling them. Unfortunately, while the eagles were extremely agile flyers, the birds could not focus on training, and so they could not be the drone-catching superstars that the police had anticipated.
The eagles were to be used to prevent protected air spaces from drone activity. Airports, and other areas where drones were not allowed to fly near would have eagles on standby. If a drone trespassed, then an eagle would be dispatched to capture and bring back the offending drone. The eagles did not respond to commands consistently, and many were worried that the drones’ blades could injure eagles during attempted capture.
The decision to cancel the drone-catching eagles is both a practical decision, and an economical one. Purchasing, training, and housing the eagles costs a lot of money, and the price can’t be justified considered how infrequently the eagles are even being used. There are many other ways of dealing with trespassing drones, that do not involve using living animals. There are machines that release signals that force the drones to drop to the ground, and there are fences that can prevent drones from entering secure areas entirely; there are many other options, and all of them require less time and money than eagles do.
The need for securing areas like airports from trespassing drones is not going to go away, particularly as more people purchase drones for their hobbies. The Dutch police’s decision to pursue drone-catching eagles made sense in that they were trying to be proactive, however it is fortunate that they decided that using animals that can easily be injured by drones and easily distracted was not the best option to deal with this issue.