The news that Dutch police were planning to use eagles as part of a counter-drone strategy made headlines in 2016. One year on, the program has been abandoned.
The use of eagles as a countermeasure was never the most convincing way to protect sensitive locations from rogue drones. The most natural response to seeing the birds of prey in action was to wince. Officials have insisted that the eagles were never put in harm’s way, but it turns out there were further complications.
To put it bluntly, eagles don’t always do what they’re told. So it will come as no surprise that Dutch police quickly found that this counter-drone ‘solution’ didn’t reap the results they were hoping to achieve.
According to a report on Dutch news site NOS, practice runs highlighted the fact that the birds had minds of their own and, despite plenty of training, didn’t always carry out instructions to the letter.
The threat has not materialized
Another reason the program has been abandoned is that Dutch police have deemed it an unnecessary expense. Over the past twelve months, the birds have been present at events in Rotterdam and Brussels. Fortunately, they never saw any action; the threat of a terrorist incident involving a drone is yet to materialize in Europe.
Another factor in the decision was the mounting cost of raising, training and feeding the predators. The retiring eagles are being sent to a shelter, according to Dutch police, and the experiment is over.
That said, there are a host of more sophisticated counter drone solutions on the market now. These include Department 13’s Mesmer system, which effectively hacks rogue drones in mid-air and hands control over to security personnel. Kinetic solutions are also under development, such as Drone Defence’s NetGun X1 and the more heavy duty SkyWall from OpenWorks Engineering.
For sensitive locations such as airports and sports stadiums, drone manufacturer DJI has recently launched Aeroscope, an awareness tool that can be used by law enforcement to track drone pilots who are flying where they shouldn’t. Although passive in nature, it can be used alongside active measures and act as an early warning system.