Just before dusk in a desolate stretch of Qatari desert, Saqr al-Humaidi slipped on a worn leather glove and readied his falcon for its daily training. Coaxing the bird out of the back seat of his Toyota Land Cruiser, al-Humaidi, 40, removed a round hood from its head and nodded to his cousin to prepare the target: a live pigeon attached to a small red parachute that, in turn, was tied to a drone.

Fiddling with a remote control, his cousin launched the drone into the cool evening air. It dragged the pigeon higher and higher until all that could be seen was a red speck dancing across the washed-out sky. As if sensing a shift in the air, the falcon tilted its head, ruffled its pointed wings and took off in pursuit.

The hunt was on.