SAN JOSE, Calif. – We’re all getting used to seeing drones over our heads. And birds have been around forever.
But birds attacking drones?
In one of the more creative countermeasures that the law enforcement brain trust has come up with to combat the growing number of bad guys doing bad things with unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, Dutch police are training eagles to swoop in and save the day. And with an increasing number of reports of drones being used to target homes for burglaries or deliver contraband over prison walls, even Scotland Yard says it’s keen on the idea. So will the exalted American Eagle soon be pressed into service as well?
“I thought the eagle idea was brilliant,” said Enrico Schaefer, a Michigan lawyer who specializes in aviation cases involving small unmanned aerial systems. “It’s a bird, so it’s unregulated, and an eagle will bring a drone back to the ground so you don’t have to worry about it falling onto someone unless it’s a bigger model.”
With Monday’s FAA announcement that more than 325,000 Americans had registered drones since the federal program began in December, and with growing concerns that terrorists could launch a drone attack, Schaefer said police need more and better ways to stop high-tech scofflaws.
“Not only do police and state and federal authorities need ways to protect stadiums and events and even the White House,” he said, “but you have a lot of national security contractors and private companies with very secure operations trying to guard against the kind of espionage that drones can be used for. Interference by drones is also a problem that police and firefighters are facing more and more, and to take down a drone you have almost no way right now to easily do it. Maybe birds are an answer.”
Or, says the Nature Conservancy’s chief technology officer Matt Merrifield, maybe not. “I think there’s a definite risk to using wildlife around drones,” he said. “It seems to me that a mechanized solution would be better than trying to add wildlife into the mix.”