AI News, Replicating peregrine falcon attack strategies could help down rogue drones

Replicating peregrine falcon attack strategies could help down rogue drones

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.

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.' The Oxford researchers used miniature GPS receivers to track peregrines attacking dummy targets thrown by a falconer or towed by a drone and were able to apply a mathematical simulation to these movements describing the dynamics of the guidance system used in intercepting the dummy prey.

Peregrine falcons target prey like guided missiles — and the strategy could be used to take down rogue drones

The fastest predators on Earth dive bomb their prey at speeds topping 200 mph, swooping down out of the sky and snatching other birds mid-flight with their talons.

To figure this out, the Oxford University researchers behind the study attached GPS units and cameras to eight Peregrine falcons, and to various dummies designed to mimic prey animals.

The study authors used data from 23 attacks on stationary targets and 22 attacks on moving targets to assess how the falcons aimed their dives.

Instead of calculating the direction a meal might be flying and setting an intercept course, Peregrines select a target and dive towards it in a way that maintains a consistent line-of-sight angle, making adjustments en route as needed.

Since this technique relies solely on having a visual angle on a target (and on being fast and agile), the researchers wrote that the same navigation strategy could work for anti-drone attack drones.

'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,' said Taylor.

Terminal attack trajectories of peregrine falcons are described by the proportional navigation guidance law of missiles

The success of any aerial predator hinges on its ability to steer a collision course to its prey, which previous work has explored by looking for simple rules describing the geometry of an attack (1⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓–11).

Here, we analyze the aerial attack behaviors of peregrines, Falco peregrinus, dynamically, using GPS data supported by onboard video to identify a simple guidance law capable of generating the trajectories observed during the terminal phase of an attack.

Previous studies have described the target-oriented behaviors of animals using three simple geometric rules, each defined by the constancy of one of two angles characterizing the 2D geometry of a chase: the line-of-sight angle (λ), defined as the compass bearing of the line-of-sight from pursuer to target;

Pure pursuit has been described in hawks attacking stationary targets (10), flies chasing mates (13⇓⇓–16), fish catching sinking food (21), beetles running after targets (22, 23), and bees landing on a moving platform (24).

This results in a parallel navigation course defined by the rule λ(t) = λ(0), and leads incidentally to a form of motion camouflage, because the pursuer appears stationary against a distant background (2, 25, 26) [also called constant absolute target direction (9⇓–11) or constant bearing angle (6)].

Tucker further proposed that a falcon would hold its head symmetrically for streamlining in a stoop, leading to the hypothesis that it would naturally fly a deviated pursuit course with a lead angle α ≈ 45°, equal to the azimuthal angle of the deep fovea (7).

Recent observational studies using head-mounted video cameras (9) have cast doubt on the supposition that the deep fovea is used to target aerial prey, as the target’s inferred position on the retina is nearer to that of the shallow fovea (9).

The guidance systems of most modern missiles use a guidance law called proportional navigation (PN), in which turning is commanded at a rate γ˙ proportional to the rotation rate of the line-of-sight (i.e., the line-of-sight rate, λ˙), such thatγ˙(t)=Nλ˙(t)[1]where N is termed the navigation constant and falls on the interval 3 ≤ N ≤ 5 in missiles (12).

1 and is distinct from proportional control.) Changes in the line-of-sight can be produced by motion of either the target or attacker, so PN commands turning toward the target even when it is stationary, except in the degenerate case that the attacker is already flying directly at its target.

Peregrine Falcons’ Hunting Strategy Mimics Guided Missiles

Peregrine falcons are known to be one of nature’s fastest predators, capable of diving through the air at speeds of up to 200 mph.

They tracked the birds’ flights with miniature GPS units and observed them during 61 hunting flights – 26 of which used dummy targets thrown by a falconer, and the other 35 were done through drones that had a spinning birdlike lure attached to them.

The researchers discovered that the attack trajectories are described by the same feedback law used by visually guided missiles – known as proportional navigation (PN) – but with a tuning optimized for their lower flight speed.

“Our results from peregrines point to the fact that PN guidance optimized for low flight speeds could find use in small visually guided drones designed to remove other drones from protected airspace,” wrote the study authors.

The Air Force Studied Falcons to Develop a Bio-Mimicking Drone Defense

The US Air Force recently funded a study by Oxford University zoologists that aimed to understand how peregrine falcons hunt for prey, and to model their predatory behavior into bio-mimicking drone defense technology.

“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,”

“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 modeling, to reveal the secret of their attack strategy,”

As the world moves towards employing more drone technology and autonomous weapon systems in our cities and on the battlefield, presumably to lessen human casualties, taking a cue from how nature’s predators work could greatly improve next-generation designs. The US Air Force-funded Oxford study can make it easier to design drones that see their target and adjust accordingly.

Vision-based loitering over a target for a fixed-wing UAV

Visual tracking of a ground target is a typical task for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) employed, e.g., in surveillance, patrolling or escorting missions.

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