December 4, 2017
Researchers at Oxford University have discovered that peregrine falcons steer their attacks using the same control strategies as guided missiles.
The findings, which overturn previous assumptions that peregrines' aerial hunting follows simple geometric rules, could be applied to the design of small, visually guided drones that can take down other 'rogue' drones in settings such as airports or prisons.
The research, initially funded by the US Air Force Research Laboratory and published open access in the journal PNAS, may also give scientists greater insight into the pursuit behaviours of other predatory species - in the air, in water, or on the ground.
Principal investigator Professor Graham Taylor, of the Oxford Flight Group in Oxford University's Department of Zoology, said: 'Falcons are classic aerial predators, synonymous with agility and speed. Our GPS tracks and on-board videos show how peregrine falconsintercept 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. Our next step is to apply this research to designing a new kind of visually guided drone, able to remove rogue drones safely from the vicinity of airports, prisons and other no-fly zones.'