The French military is training golden eagles to take down small unmanned drones.
After pranksters flew drones over restricted military sites and the presidential palace in 2015, French authorities decided to try out this new avian defense tactic.
So far, they have trained four eagles: d’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, in tribute to Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers.
The trainers need eight months to fully train these eagles. In doing so, trainers fill the nest where the eagles were born with old drone parts to trick the birds into thinking that the drones are a food source, according to the Agence France-Presse.
“A drone means food for these birds,” Gerald Machoukow, a French military falconer, told FRANCE 24. “Now they automatically go after them.”
The French military chose golden eagles because of the birds’ hooked beaks and sharp eyesight. However, because golden eagles are a protected species, collecting their eggs in the wild is illegal. So instead, the French used artificial insemination to breed these birds.
At roughly 11 pounds, the eagles weigh more or less the same as the drones they are hunting. They can fly at a top speed of 50 miles per hour and can see a target from a distance of more than a mile.
Furthermore, the trainers have made leather and Kevlar mittens for the eagles to protect their claws from the drone’s rotating blades. It also protects against any explosives that may be attached to the drone.
“I love these birds,” Machoukow told Agence France-Presse. “I don’t want to send them to their death.”
The military says that they plan to deploy the birds during special events, such as political summits or soccer tournaments, according to Fox News.
Now, the French military is training four more eagles to join the four already in service.