Eagles seem to be the most effective way to intercept drones in cities.
The drones being targeted are small, weighing less than 2kg, and are readily available on the commercial market. Nevertheless, their use in sensitive zones – including during demonstrations and around airports – has led to accidents that prompted France and other countries to introduce restrictions on unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
The French army is using birds of prey to take down drones to protect its air bases as well as to secure public airspace in case a drone poses a threat.
Eagles were first used by the Dutch police force to intercept drones used by criminals and terrorists. Inspired by this success, the French military began training eagles for military programmes.
The pilot programme started last spring at Mont de Marsan air base in southwestern France with a team of four raptors – three females and one male. They are taught from a very young age until they become fully-trained at around 8 months, when they reach full maturity. The eagles used in France are bred using artificial insemination since eagles are a protected species and harvesting wild eggs is strictly forbidden.
Part of the training involves familiarising the eagles with the sight of drones. Even before they hatch, the eagles are surrounded by drones so they become part of their natural environment. Eventually they are taught to associate drones with being fed.
“A drone means food for these birds,” Gerald Machoukow, the military base’s falconer, told FRANCE 24’s Fanny Allard. “Now they automatically go after them.” France24
Video: Dutch police use eagles to hunt illegal drones (last year)