The French Air Force is training up a new type of special force in the fight against armed drones that could be used in a terrorist attack: eagles.
L‘armée de l’air considers rogue drones “a credible threat for a terrorist mode of action on our national territory just as they do for external operations.”
After a series of mysterious and worrying overlights of nuclear power stations by unmanned drones, the government called on experts to swiftly come up with a way of neutralising them.
Besides developing jamming techniques, another solution dreamed up by the air force has been to train up royal eagles, whose huge wingspan and powerful talons enable it to snatch up a relatively heavy drone as it would another bird in flight.
“In certain situations (falling debris, a crowd under the craft), the drone cannot be shot down,” an air force spokesman told L’Express magazine.
“The eagle, along with other means, can enable us to intercept the craft without causing any further damage.”
Considered “more robust and better suited than smaller falcons and other birds of prey”, according to the force, the royal eagle is able to carry off and animal as heavy as a lamb.
This week, the French air force presented the birds to the public.
“Eagles could be called upon at major events such as July 14 (Bastille Day), a G20 summit in France, or an international conference such as recently the COP21 (climate summit in Paris),” said the air force source.
The air force first acquired four royal eagle eggs and two from a goshawk, another powerful bird this Spring. The eagles reached adult size this summer and went into drone training.
“We taught them to feed off the ‘carcasses’ of the drones,” said the spokesman. “Now, when they see one of these craft, they think it has food coming off it and they intercept it. We’re teaching them not just to attack but to detect them.”
Given the he “excellent results”, they intend to put the four eagles into service starting next summer.
Eagles have already been employed by police in the Netherlands to fight drones, but not in the army.
In France, there have been growing concerns over the threat of drones since the start of a wave of terrorist attacks over the past two years.
In spring last year, authorities were worried about a spate of mysterious drone flights over famous landmarks in central Paris, including the Elysée Palace.
A string of France’s numerous nuclear power stations detected intrusions from mystery drones in 2014. The culprits have never been identified or caught.
There have also been near misses with drones at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport.
Security experts are concerned that terrorists are seeking to place explosive charges on the more powerful models to set them off remotely.
Full story: Telegraph