The birds are raised from birth to seek and destroy small unmanned aircrafts.
When some drones flew over the French presidential palace in Paris back in 2015, the country's military realized it had to come up with a plan to defend against small unmanned aircrafts that may be carrying bombs or spy cameras. That's when it hatched the most badass plan ever: train eagles to rip drones out of the sky, mid-flight.
In 2016, the French Air Force started a two-year pilot program where it began training four golden eagles—named Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan, after the protagonists from the Three Musketeers—to destroy all drones in their paths.
The training began at birth, when the eagles hatched on the wreckage of old drones and then lived on top of them during their early feeding period. This gave the eagles a natural propensity to hunt drones as if they were a food source, according to the Agence France-Presse.
Falconer Gerald Machoukow, who worked with the drone-fighting eagles, then had them chase drones in horizontal flights. Each time they caught one, they were rewarded with a hunk of meat.
The training apparently worked—at a recent demonstration at an air force base in Mont-de-Marsan in southwestern France, a drone flew up into the air and D'Artagnan was released from a control tower 200 yards away. He intercepted and pinned the drone to the ground in 20 seconds.
"The results are encouraging. The eagles are making good progress," a representative of the French military told the press. Another brood of eagles, hatched in the same way, has been ordered for the program.
Golden eagles are an especially good species for this military work. They have a wingspan of about seven feet, can spot a target from almost a mile away, and swoop down at about 50 miles per hour when attacking a target. Birds of prey also seem to naturally think drones are their enemies. In 2015, an Australian eagle was captured knocking a drone out of the sky in seconds without any training at all.