Yes, you read that correctly! As drones become more popular, they are starting to cause more dangerous situations. The Dutch police have come up with a novel solution: eagles! Animals and birds already seem to have their sights set on drones. But just what are the rules in the Netherlands for flying drones, and who has already been caught out by a drone camera?
This sounds like a fantasy novel or an April Fool’s Day joke, but apparently a Dutch company called Guard from Above has already trained one eagle to catch drones and they are working to train other large birds of prey to do the same. The Dutch police are now evaluating the idea as a method of dealing with rogue drones (or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), as they’re officially known). Drones aren’t illegal, but there are some places or moments where they could cause a dangerous situation. The policeman in the interview mentions two recorded incidents, one too close to an airport and one where a drone was being flown near a place where a helicopter needed to land and was unable to because of a drone in the vicinity.
What are the options for disabling drones?
Locate the pilot and force him to land the drone, but this can waste valuable time.
- Disable the drone with a laser gun (directed energy), like the Boeing anti-drone device.
- Disable the drone with a ‘death ray’ device that turns it off by remote control such as the one developed by a British consortium.
- Special drones with nets, already being used in Japan.
- Eagles! Dutch police are working with a team from the company Guard from Above, training eagles and other birds of prey to attack rogue drones. The eagles could be more reliable because they are unlikely to drop the drone, injuring people or property below. Eagles will readily attack a drone because they see it as prey. If you’re worried about the eagles being injured, the trainer explains that their legs are protected by a thick covering of feathers. Just to be on the safe side, they are also looking into some extra form of leg protection for the birds.
Where did the idea of a drone-catching eagle come from?
If you look on YouTube, there are lots of videos of drones being attacked by animals, mostly dogs whose owners are deliberately buzzing them, trying to get them to attack. There’s even one video (in a compilation) that shows a cheetah chasing a drone. But there are also videos of attacks by birds of prey, including this one from Australia where a large bird of prey attacks the drone.
The opposite of the drone-catching bird is the bird-repelling drone that can be used as a modern-day scarecrow. The ProHawk UAV can scare birds away by frightening them with predatory cries from the sky.
Rules for flying drones in the Netherlands
- You must always be able to see your drone
- Never in the dark
- Other aircraft always have priority (aeroplanes, helicopters, gliders and airships), so you must land as soon as you see one approaching
Where am I allowed to fly my drone?
- At a safe distance from people and buildings
- No higher than 120 metres above the ground or water
- Only if there are no other aircraft in the area
- Not within 3 km of an airfield which has no local air traffic control
- Not in the area around airports with controlled air space: Schiphol, Groningen, Rotterdam, Maastricht, Leeuwarden, Deelen, Eindhoven, Gilze-Rijen, De Peel, Woensdrecht, Kleine-Brogel, Den Helder, Niederrhein
How far and how high am I allowed to fly my drone?
If you see an aeroplane or helicopter approaching, you must land as soon as possible. For this reason, you are advised to fly no higher than 50 metres and no further than 100 metres. This will probably become compulsory in the future.
What is the maximum weight of my drone?
No heavier than 25 kg for private drones. Soon this will be changed to 4kg.
Taking photos and filming with a drone
You are allowed to take aerial photos and films for private use, but you must comply with privacy legislation.
Making the most of drone photography in the Netherlands and Belgium
For anyone who thinks drone photography should be banned, just look at these wonderful drone photographs of the Netherlands and Belgium.
Drones and privacy
Many people are worried about their privacy if private individuals are allowed to own drones, particularly those with cameras. I have already heard of people who have had a drone fly over their garden while they were sunbathing topless. It’s not just drones, either. There’s somebody locally who flies around for hours in a microlight above our area and, apart from the annoying noise it makes, does make me wonder exactly what he can see from up there. Fortunately for him, I don’t sunbathe topless! I do object, though, because there are rules saying you aren’t allowed to install dormer windows overlooking a neighbour’s house, but flying overhead isn’t considered a problem. Odd. The Dutch government has already prepared a paper on the privacy issues of drones and the steps that can be taken against those who go too far, who can be prosecuted under laws relating to privacy, stalking and endangering the public. After all, in the privacy of your own home and garden, especially if you live high up in a block of flats, you wouldn’t expect to be spied on. Luckily, the sunbather in this video takes it all in his stride.
Apparently, he’s a Benedictine monk who enjoys being alone on the top of the world. Read more here.
For anyone who read this far, thank you for listening to me droning on. If you’re interested in productivity, this is a cautionary tale that proves you shouldn’t open your email if you were planning on doing anything else; all the productivity gurus tell you that. If I hadn’t done that first thing this evening, I wouldn’t have seen the story about the drones and I wouldn’t have written this blog post, but I thought it was interesting and just had to share. Yesterday’s blog post will just have to get finished tomorrow!