Peregrine attack strategies could take down rogue drones

Members of the Oxford Department of Zoology have tracked peregrine falcons in the field as they attacked dummy prey – and discovered that they use the same control strategies to catch them as modern projectile weapons. This suggests a new way to tackle the problem of rogue drones.
Principle investigator Professor Graham Taylor said “Falcons are classic aerial predators, synonymous with agility and speed. Our GPS tracks and on-board videos show how peregrine falcons intercept moving targets that don’t want to be caught. Remarkably, it turns out that they do this in a similar way to most guided missiles.”.
The evidence collected in the four field seasons used by the study allowed researchers to apply a mathematical simulation to to the movements of the hunting birds, which described the dynamics of the guidance system they used. As it turns out, falcon hunts obey a law called proportional navigation (PN) – the same law obeyed by guided missiles. This particular system means that the predator requires no information about the speed or distance of its target; it calculates its movements via the line of sight rotation to its prey.
Because falcons can’t possibly fly as fast as a military-issue missile, their particular PN system is adjusted for slower flight speeds, making it an ideal model for small, visually guided drones which could take down rogue drones near airports or prisons.
The findings may also provide new insights into inner workings of other predators, be they on land, in the air or aquatic.
Co-author Dr Caroline Brighton, from the University’s Zoology department, said of the study “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”.