UK

Police 'ponder eagles to tackle drones'

  • 8 February 2016
  • From the section UK
Media captionEagles have been taught how to grab drones out of the sky

The Metropolitan Police says it is considering using eagles to intercept drones amid concerns the aircraft are increasingly used to commit crime.

The force's interest in using the birds of prey follows trials in the Netherlands.

Drones - pilot-less aircraft which are controlled remotely - are used by police forces to capture footage on difficult terrain, including cliffs.

But there are concerns criminals are also using the new technology.

In November, the Ministry of Justice said a drone used to smuggle mobile phones, SIM cards and drugs into the grounds of HMP Manchester had been recovered by guards.

'Gimmick'

The MoJ reported nine attempts to use drones to infiltrate prisons in England and Wales in the first five months of 2015.

A think tank has also warned that drones could be used by terrorist groups.

The UK Air Proximity Board said last month that drones had been involved in four serious near misses at UK airports.

The birds would help by taking down the aircraft, which they would consider to be prey.

However, Jemima Parry-Jones, who is the director of the International Centre of Birds of Prey in Gloucestershire, described the idea as a "gimmick".

"Eagles are big, powerful birds; they should not be flown in built-up areas. And secondly in terms of the safety of the bird, you're asking it to grab hold of a drone, which often have four rotating blades keeping it in the air," she said.

"If the police in the UK are asking the right experts they should listen to our advice.

"If you don't believe us, try putting your own fingers into the propeller of a reasonably sized drone and see what happens."

But a spokesman for the RSPCA said: "In principle we would not have an issue with police forces training eagles in an attempt to tackle drones, although we would have concerns over the welfare of the birds.

"At the moment, however, there is not enough information available for us to be able to make an informed comment."

A Met Police spokesman said: "As would be expected in an organisation that is transforming, we take an interest in all innovative new ideas and will of course be looking at the work of the Dutch police use of eagles."

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