Switzerland delivered more bad news for fans of counter-drone raptor action – but a welcome development for animal rights activists – with the announcement by police in Geneva that two eagles trained to take out drones in flight are being reassigned to other duties.
The Geneva Cantonal Police department this week decided to halt the program it launched in 2017 using two eagles trained to snatch invasive or threatening drones in mid-air. It was conceived as a natural world complement to the force’s counter-UAV tech used to deal with unauthorized craft during the frequent political, economic, and business summits the city hosts.
The winged response to problematic drones was one of several similar projects tested across Europe, most of which have also been terminated.
According to a statement Geneva police issued to the Sunday paper le Matin Dimanche, the pilot project siccing the eagles on troublesome drones was ultimately undone by the increasing effectiveness of UAVs to avoid obstacles – and capture – as well as concern for potential injury to raptors’ talons from whirring propellers.
“The technological and strategic improvements in terms of the use of drones make this project using raptors too uncertain, even dangerous for the physical integrity of the eagles,” the statement read, using the patois of administrativese to explain why cops will now favor ever-improving counter-UAV systems over the regal creatures.
As a result, the eagles named Altair and Draco are being permanently returned to the Falco association, a Geneva-area falconry center and refuge for birds of prey that had assisted police in training raptors to hunt drones. In his comments to le Matin Dimnanche, Falco official Umberto Nassini voiced disappointment at the decision to end the five-year project.
“This represents around 100,000 (dollars) of investment and hundreds of hours of work,” he said.
Use of eagles as anti-drone assets has also been tested by police and military units in the Netherlands, France, Scotland, and broader UK. Most have been paused for the same reasons Geneva’s force made the move: more reliable and less expensive results delivered by ready-made counter-UAV tech, as well as vocal criticism from animal rights organizations about the dangers rotors pose to the birds.
Meanwhile, many of those industry-produced anti-drone alternatives to swooping eagles can now promise another capacity that initially made birds attractive in neutralizing invasive UAVs: the ability to immobilize and bring the craft to the ground in a controlled manner that doesn’t risk the safety of people below.