Scientists from Oxford University are using funding from the US Air Force to study whether birds of prey could help combat the threat of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The peregrine falcon is the fastest member of the animal kingdom, capable of reaching speeds of up to 200mph during a hunting dive. Researchers fitted up to 55 falcons with video cameras and GPS receivers to track how they attacked prey that was strapped to a drone.
The idea is that the US Air Force could develop their own falcon drones that would be able to intercept rogue UAVs that entered restricted airspace.
It turns out that falcons employ an attack style called proportion navigation that means it keeps the prey in line-of-sight at all times and does not require information about speed or distance to the target. The falcons are masters of angling their attack run to generate the most speed.
"Falcons are classic aerial predators, synonymous with agility and speed," explained Graham Taylor, the lead author of the Falcon attack study that has been published in the journal PNAS.
"Remarkably, it turns out that they do this in a similar way to most guided missiles.
" This same guidance law could be used in small visually guided drones designed to remove other drones from protected airspace. "
] Peregrine falcons use their feathers to stabilize themselves during high-speed dives and alter their angle of attack.
If the bird exceeds its optimum angle by a very small margin, feathers at the rear of its wings start to vibrate. are detected by the body, warning the bird that it may be about to take a tumble and fall from the sky.
The threat of attacks and unintended surveillance from drones and UAVs continues to rise and both the US and UK governments are looking at ways to counter the threat.
In this country, a newly proposed law will bring in even more rules aroun d owning and flying drones in the UK.
It will give police more power to confiscate the expensive gadgets if they are used in an unsafe or criminal way – such as being flown over a prison.