Eagle eyes in the sky: Indian army using birds of prey on border drones

In an idea taken from the Netherlands, eagles track and destroy drones from Pakistan which carry ammunition, drugs and fake currency

The Indian army plans to deploy eagles to track and destroy incoming drones transporting illicit cargo.

According to security officials in New Delhi, scores of drones have increasingly been infiltrating India’s border regions from neighbouring Pakistan over the last two years, variously carrying consignments of small arms and ammunition, drugs and fake currency, for delivery to armed insurgent groups.

India’s Border Security Force (BSF), which mans more than 3,000km of its western frontier with Pakistan during peacetime, recently revealed that the number of rogue drone landings in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat, had more than doubled since 2021.

BSF chief Pankaj Kumar Singh said last month that his force had shot down 17 Pakistani drones in 2022 alone.


Consequently, the army’s Remount Veterinary Corps in Meerut, 100km northeast of New Delhi, began training eagles and falcons some two years ago in an attempt to neutralise the aerial security threat.

It recently released a training video showcasing an eagle named Arjun, perched on the hand of its soldier-handler, which successfully located a flying quadcopter and swooped on it, destroying it with its sharp claws.

These eagles have taken down scores of quadcopters during training, without suffering any injuries themselves

In November, a trained eagle demonstrated its ability to tackle an in-flight drone during a joint exercise between the Indian army and US special forces at Auli in the northern Uttarakhand state in the Himalayas.

“These eagles have taken down scores of quadcopters during training, without suffering any injuries themselves,” said an officer involved in the programme.

He said the eagles will be deployed over India’s disputed Himalayan borders with Pakistan and China, once the army is completely satisfied with their performance.

Some of these birds have also been trained to conduct surveillance in mountainous areas, with sophisticated cameras attached to their heads to record activity on the ground. The cameras are unable to provide real-time footage, but the army is believed to be working on ways to improve the technology.

In 2020, southern Telangana state’s Integrated Intelligence Training Academy raised a small “Eagle Squad” to protect VIPs from hostile drones during official programmes. However, its scope was limited as it involved merely two trainers.

India’s initiative in employing eagles to attack drones came from an official Dutch government programme called Guard From Above, which claimed a success rate of about 80 per cent. But the project was soon abandoned due to the birds’ high training cost and upkeep, with the Dutch authorities opting for cheaper and less arduous high-tech means to deal with potential drone threats.

France followed suit a year later, after its presidential palace and a sensitive military installation in Brittany were reportedly threatened by drones in 2017, and is believed to be continuing with it.

Around the same time, the UK’s Metropolitan Police in London toyed with the idea of utilising eagles to combat drones, but animal rights activists objected and the scheme was abandoned even before it began.

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi is a contributor to The Irish Times based in New Delhi