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Falcon hunting techniques could one day be used to make drones, study reports

The hunting technique of peregrine falcons could one day be used to develop visually guided drones that could knock rogue, unmanned aerial vehicles out of the sky, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

The new technology comes from researchers at Oxford University, who began their research by analyzing the way peregrine falcons rapidly dart and move to hunt their prey.

To get an in-depth look at that process, the team equipped eight of the birds with both video cameras and global positioning system devices. They then monitored and tracked their movements over four field seasons to get a deep understanding of the way the birds flew.

“It was very exciting to study these sleek, formidable aerial predators, and to watch them as they chased down our maneuvering lure towed behind a small remote-controlled airplane – then, through our computer modelling, to reveal the secret of their attack strategy,” said study co-author, Caroline Brighton, a researcher at Oxford University, according to Tech Times.

The research showed that the falcon’s trajectories followed a process known as proportional navigation, which is used by most visually guided missiles. As a result, further study of the birds could help scientists combine the hunting techniques into new technology. That would then allow them to use the navigation to develop new types of visually guided drones that would be able to safely remove potentially dangerous drones from areas such as airports, prisons, and protected airspace.

The technique would improve security, especially because it does not require any information on a target’s speed or distance to be successful. Instead, it simply needs information about the rotation of the attacker’s line of sight to the target. That combination could come together and lead to much more efficient machines.

“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,” said study co-author Graham Taylor, a professor at Oxford University, according to Bloomberg.

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