Dutch police are set to unveil the world's first army of eagles, using the old Asian tradition of falconry to hunt down the unauthorized drones.
As the increasing use of unauthorized drones worries everyone from safety officials to security officers, Netherlands’ national police have teamed up with a raptor-training security firm based in the Hague to train and employ an army of bald eagles to snatch out trouble-making drones off the sky.
Following months of tests, Dutch police demonstrated their unorthodox new weapon on Monday with two-year-old Hunter, a female American bald eagle.
In a mock-up scenario of a state visit to show off the bird's prowess, a drone suddenly appeared and sirens began wailing, and Hunter flew into action. The bird headed for the drone and grasped the mechanical prey in her powerful talons before landing safely a few meters away.
"It's a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem," police spokesman Dennis Janus said.
Increasing numbers of drones are invading skies in many countries, raising concerns in places like airports and restricted, sensitive areas.
Dutch police launched test battles between eagles and drones in early 2015, and are now confidently preparing to recruit the majestic hunters into their ranks.
"We found out that it is probably one of the most effective counter-measures against hostile drones," police head of operations Michel Baeten said.
During the long tests, "none of the eagles were hurt, but as for the drones, none of them survived," Janus said to brush aside concerns from animal rights groups.
Following a few misses during the public show, Baeten insisted, “It is a bird, it is an animal, it is not a robot. It is not a flawless solution. It's very hot today and I have been told that weather conditions can affect the bird." But he stressed that the birds had brought down the drones 80 percent of the time during training sessions.
About 100 police officers will be trained in working with the eagles, and the Dutch "flying squad" with its own birds of prey could go into action as of next summer.
Police forces in many other countries are exploring other methods to combat drones, such as using nets carried by another drone, or deploying electronic counter-measures against the craft.
"A lot of law enforcement agencies are really interested in our program. I think other countries will follow," said Baeten.