Matt February 16, 2016 2:26 PM

This is just future cruelty to animals. If I was going to smuggle drugs into a prison with attack eagles, I would embed razor blades into the props, incorporate a tazerinto the body of the drone, etc.

Dr. I. Needtob Athe February 16, 2016 2:45 PM

The article claims that “the operation poses little risk to the eagles”, but still, it seems like it would make better sense to fight fire with fire. Build counter-drone drones.

albert February 16, 2016 4:05 PM

Not a good idea, if only for the birds sake. Rotor guards should be required -by law- on -all- drones anyway. Drone crime in urban areas is going to be difficult to deal with. That’s probably why there’s interest in raptors. Jamming devices would be much cheaper for LE to deploy. For example, drones can be deployed quite close to a target in urban areas. LE would have to be there and ready to attack; there’s no time to call 911. With jammers, they could be. Birds are high-maintenance ‘weapons’. It just doesn’t make sense, in cost or effectiveness.
. .. . .. — ….

Fine February 16, 2016 4:39 PM

There’s an article on intercept about CIA and NSA connecting mobile phone surveillance to drone attacks.

Buck February 16, 2016 5:18 PM


I’d suspect that widespread prevalence of drone jammers would only lead to faster development of self-contained navigation systems. Wouldn’t the most cost effective response be to simplify realize that small autonomous aircraft pose far less of a threat than automobiles..?

Clive Robinson February 16, 2016 6:09 PM

For those saying that the birds are “high maintenance” etc.

The original idea was to provide additional training to existing “airstrike prevention birds”.

That is many airports use raptors of various sizes to clear birds from runways and surounding areas for perfectly valid flight safety maintenance. Thus the cost of upgrading the raptors ability to take on small drones is viewed in the light of a small increase “training” not in “operating” costs.

However raptors have a problem in the way their talons work which could very well cause a significant increase in risk to the birds.

However as a friend who is involved with the conservation of birds of prey in the wild pointed out to me there are a lot of “sick minded” individuals out there with their sights set on harming all sorts of birds of prey. Thus quite a few techniques of harming the birds are well known, and trained birds are not an “out of the box” solution for a number of reasons. All of which means outside of “idiot operators” of drones, if a criminal wanted to remove the threat of raptors to drones it would be fairly easy. And for just this reason alone it would be unwise to use birds of prey to disable or bring down drones.

Armin February 16, 2016 6:23 PM


The Dutch police have run an experiment with one Eagle (singular, not plural)

The UK police haven’t trained a single Eagle, they have only said they are considering it. Just like they consider many other things.

Goo February 16, 2016 7:59 PM

I saw this headline and was thinking “this is why I love America”… then saw the word “police”… and then it’s not even America! befuzzled

@Armin yeah, just like they “considered” the old fashioned idea of human rights, and rejected that whole concept…

tyr February 17, 2016 12:45 AM

Sounds like a job opportunity for a Mongol kid.
I saw a documentary where a young Mongol was
training a Golden Eagle to take down prey. Big
old birdy and able to handle a big mammal quite
nicely. I hardly expect the Dutch to consider it
as a drone striker because of the flying pieces
it would create.

Gerard van Vooren February 17, 2016 1:39 AM

@ Goo,

I saw this headline and was thinking “this is why I love America”…

Is that why you love the US? Really?

Winter February 17, 2016 1:48 AM

Raptors are only one, not very promising, option studied. I think their most application would be against morons flying a drone over an airport.

This is more likely to have success (in Dutch, but the picture says it all):

Here is the same, but now in English from Japan:

Armin February 17, 2016 7:09 AM

Let’s put some meat on to this: The various reports I’ve read about this say they would be used to protect prisons, airports, large events and much more.

Can someone tell me where we’re going to get all the large raptors (and their handlers) from required to provide 24*7 cover? Smaller raptors almost certainly won’t be sufficient, as they won’t be able to attack and more importantly then carry a mid-sized or larger drone.

There are over 100 prisons in the UK alone. Probably several dozen airports big enough to require this cover (and while some of the birds Clive mentions might be repurposed I should think they will still only represent a small number). Don’t even know where to start counting the events which will require coverage in some form. Who knows what else will need coverage.

I’d estimate we’d need well over a thousand birds and handlers just for the UK alone. This would be in order to cover, say, 300-500 locations. Keep in mind one bird and handler in most cases won’t be enough as they will need breaks and time off, assuming an 8 hour shift you would need at least 3 for a location requiring 24 hour coverage.

Just remember that coverage needs to be there pretty much 24*7. It needs to be there constantly, as you won’t have the time to summon it from some central place.

I don’t know how many captive Eagles there are in the UK, but I very much doubt they will get anywhere near this number. According to the RSPB there are only around 450 pairs of breeding wild Golden Eagles in the UK, none of which you’d be able to capture and use for this I believe (protected species).

To me this looks like a giant smokescreen. They want people to think that they have these magical Eagles which will take their drones down, so that they don’t fly at airports, try to smuggle drugs into prisons etc. Probably won’t help against any serious terrorist, but might stop a few gullible amateurs. Although, the responsible amateurs won’t really pose a risk anyway and the reckless amateurs won’t really care anyway.

albert February 17, 2016 9:25 AM

Yes, autonomous navigation would work, if you only need to drop a payload somewhere (and you don’t need video to send to Fox News). Most autonav systems use GPS, which is jamable. Best to use inertial nav systems which are more expensive, but are, AFAIK, already in use.

As always, the technology outruns the abuse of that technology. It only takes one serious ‘terrorist’ incident, and watch the gov’t regulators step in.

We law-abiding citizens are used to suffering because of a few bad apples.

. .. . .. — ….

Lawrence D’Oliveiro February 17, 2016 4:59 PM

Why this won’t work: eagles are solo predators, whereas the operators of those drones belong to a pack species.

Is that enough of a hint?

ianf February 17, 2016 6:22 PM

I don’t even know why we’re still discussing eagle-borne defense of offensive drones… I blame the news media that are so starved for anything out of the ordinary, that they’ll print such without a moment’s afterthought… like here.

BTW. Lawrence D’Oliveiro, eagles are solo predators, but there are species of them that, born in captivity, can be trained for hunting of even quite a sizable prey (lambs in the Mongolian desert that their trainers-tribesmen rely on to feed their families; seen it in several documentaries). I’ve also seen footage of an wild eagle catch and carry across a valley a 30+kg mountain goat. The v. much still alive goat was hanging under it without a move, probably frozen stiff by the “novelty”. But eagles deployed as a on-demand defensive anti-drone weapon? #fuggedaboutit.

Andrea February 17, 2016 7:02 PM

As a falconer, I see this as just a ridiculous idea. In addition to all the problems mentioned, it also would be simple to make props out of sharp metal blades that will cut up feet. People who hunt squirrels with hawks use the equivalent of chaps on their birds, covering the legs and the tops of the toes, but the toes still need to be free to grab. But the main thing I believe has been overlooked is that drones can climb fast, much faster than a bird of prey can climb. Evading an eagle would be easy.

albert February 18, 2016 10:03 AM


Thanks for driving the final nail into the ‘raptor vs. drones’ coffin.

Anyone who brings up this subject again is a Big Silly.

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Buck February 18, 2016 8:10 PM


We law-abiding citizens are used to suffering because of a few bad apples.

Sad, but true… Though I wonder, how long has this been the case? As an example, how was Henry Ford able to promise putting almost every one of his employees (and more) behind the wheel of one of the most dangerous killing machines the world has ever seen!? Of course, I did not live through that experience, so maybe I’m looking at it in the wrong way… Perhaps he was one of those bad apples, and the suffering was only inflicted on other law-abiding citizens out of pure racism..? Now that I’m beginning to ramble though, perhaps it’s just time for me to go home! 😉

Erika February 18, 2016 9:40 PM

Even though partnering with eagles against drones is of questionable scaleability, I am enjoying this momentary spotlight on eagles in common cause with humans, facilitating rather than impeding “progress.” If eagles constituted “working families” rather than just an endangered species getting in the way of commercial development, for example, they might get the mainstream respect and compassion they need to thrive. 😉

John February 20, 2016 6:03 PM

I build and fly multirotors, some as large 680mm with carbon fiber props, my buddy has a similar build, and a video of an eagle attack his multirotor and disappearing in a puff of feathers.

This is a stupid idea, a cruel idea, and tough to believe anyone training birds would do this to them.

A Nonny Bunny March 5, 2016 3:31 PM

I’m sure we can all agree an eagle could never take on a Predator drone, but that’s not exactly what we’re talking about here.
The Dutch trial was about targeting simple consumer drones where they’re endangering air traffic. So we’re not taking about two-feet long super-drones with weaponized rotor-blades firing jets of napalm.

I think the only valid argument anyone has brought up here is that you’re unlikely to have enough trained eagles to get one where you need it in time for it to matter. (Especially considering the limited flight time of most commercial drones.)

A Nonny Bunny March 5, 2016 3:37 PM


But the main thing I believe has been overlooked is that drones can climb fast, much faster than a bird of prey can climb. Evading an eagle would be easy.

That’s assuming the drone operator sees the eagle coming. And that the eagle isn’t swooping in from above. (Isn’t that what they do? Or am I thinking of other types of raptor.)

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