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Falcons could help US military strike down drone attacks, study says

The U.S. military is studying falcons to learn how to build a killer drone. (Karim Sahib/Getty Images)

The U.S. military is studying peregrine falcons in hopes of learning strategies to strike down drone attacks, Bloomberg News reported. The secret lies in methods falcons use to hunt and track their prey.

Under a study funded by the U.S. Air Force, zoology researchers at Oxford University examined how falcons angle in on prey while they attack. The falcons' hunting techniques closely relate to "proportional navigation, a guidance system used by visually-directed missiles," Bloomberg noted.

How were the falcons studied?

Miniature video cameras and GPS devices were attached to the birds to study how they attack other birds and prey, Bloomberg reported. They also used drones to tow bait through the air. Findings were released Monday in a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.

How can a bird prevent a drone attack?

“We think that the finer details of how peregrines operate could certainly find application in small drones designed to remove other drones from protected airspace,” Professor Graham Taylor, the principal investigator, told Bloomberg in an email.

Why is this an issue now?

As drone technology continues to develop, law enforcement, military troops, and airports are all at risk of becoming a target, Bloomberg reported. Small, cheap drones can easily fall into the hands of militants, and the Defense Department is looking at ways to protect against attacks.

According to Reuters, the Pentagon in July gave the green light for 133 military installations in the U.S. to take down both private and commercial drones that threaten their airspace. Drones are also banned near military facilities.

A variety of techniques are already used to cut down hostile drones, Bloomberg reported. Methods include machine guns, lasers, jamming radio frequencies to make drones inoperable, and using technology that allows miliary to hack into the drone and take control of it.

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