Dutch Police are Retiring Their Squad of Drone-Hunting Eagles

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 - 7:25PM
Weird Science
Tuesday, 12 December 2017 - 7:25PM
Dutch Police are Retiring Their Squad of Drone-Hunting Eagles
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Wikimedia Commons
Bad news, falconry enthusiasts: it turns out this medieval pastime may not become a burgeoning profession once again. At least not for drone-hunting purposes, which came very close to happening.

Last year, police in Holland made headlines as they began using trained eagles as part of efforts to take down illegal drones. Now, the force is looking to shut this program down, and all eagles involved are to be removed from active duty and instead sent to sanctuaries.

The idea behind recruiting birds of prey to fight against drone armies made sense on paper. As quadcopters have become cheaper and more reliable, many criminals have been using them for all kinds of nefarious purposes. Drones can be used to transport illicit drugs or other contraband, and some military-grade versions of commercial drones are even able to fire sniper rifles, which in years to come is likely going to cause headaches for Homeland Security.

The problem with drones is that they can't be touched by traditional police methods. Believe it or not, most law enforcement organizations around the world frown on having their officers fire guns wildly into the sky in the vague hope of taking down a toy helicopter, even if the drone is very obviously sneaking drugs into a federal prison. 

We're also a long way away from jetpacks as standard issue gear for police officers, so there's no way a human can patrol the skies, looking for flying illegal items.

The Netherlands was the first country to attempt to use eagles to counter illegal drones, and it seemed like the perfect solution to the problem: birds of prey are very intelligent creatures which can be taught to perform specific tasks, which include taking down flying adversaries. For all that drones may be good at avoiding the police, they're less adept at defending themselves when set upon by an enormous flying monster of death.

In all fairness, none of us would hold our own all that well if an eagle decided to try and rip us apart, which is why Holland's police force of killer birds drew criticism from rights groups. According to falconer Robert Muster:

Opening quote
"If an eagle can not catch his prey, he may become so frustrated that he picks up something else. Eagle talons are so strong that it can easily pierce a child's head."
Closing quote

Apparently, these fears of rogue birds were not unfounded. A large part of the reason why the Dutch Eagle police have been disbanded is because these feathered officers were loose cannons; not playing nice with others, and regularly going rogue when taken outside of their controlled training environment. Sure, these kinds of cops get results, but at what costs? Ultimately, the eagles were forced to turn in their badges.

At least for the moment, the Netherlands seems to be the only nation taking this logical and sensible - but ultimately boring - course of action. Meanwhile, America is still training a group of falcons to be employed in similar work, ignoring the fact that even the police in Europe's marijuana capital think this is a bad idea.

You can always count on American law enforcement to charge ahead with a super cool idea, regardless of the potential consequences. Don't be too surprised the next time you're pulled over by a red-tailed hawk, who proceeds to issue you a speeding ticket before trying to bite off one of your fingers.
Weird Science