Patrolling the Skies with Drone-Attacking Eagles and GoPro Vultures

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Typically, when people in cities talk about carcass-eating vultures, it’s a joke about lawyers or developers or something, not flying scavengers.

In Lima, Peru, a team of actual vultures equipped with GoPros and GPSs are locating illegally dumped trash. The birds don’t just help spot areas where trash needs to be removed. Their work can help reduce disease or keep poisonous chemicals from contaminating local water, particularly in poor neighborhoods. A similar approach may be helpful in other cities with trash dumping problems, like Beirut and Bangalore. This idea came from U.N.-backed climate talks that focus on what cities can do to reduce climate change. Those talks, which started last year in Lima, continue this fall.

An eagle’s-eye view can help make cities better, too. As drones become ubiquitous, keeping them safe is increasingly part of the law enforcement’s job, so police in Holland are testing the use of attack eagles to take down drones that violate airspace. It’s a pretty amazing sight. An eagle attacking a drone looks exactly like an eagle grabbing prey in the wild. Research is being conducted now on how to better protect eagle claws from the spinning blades of a UAV. London’s Metropolitan Police are also considering using attack eagles.

Much like the solution to stop disease with a genetically modified mosquito or capturing the energy of life flowing around us for electricity, these solutions harness forces at play in the world long before man had tools, let alone a computer. Naturally occurring force combined with tech seems hard to beat. I mean what’s more powerful to leverage than nature?

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