Drones fan scare over Paris skies

Drones fan scare over Paris skies

They were spotted over Eiffel Tower, US embassy and other landmarks

By (Agencies)

Published: Thu 26 Feb 2015, 1:48 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 8:47 PM

Dubai - Hard on the heels of safety scares sparked by drones over Dubai airport and the White House in Washington DC, at least five drones flew over the Eiffel Tower, the US embassy and other Paris landmarks on Monday night. It was the most audacious of several mysterious drone overflights around France in recent months.

With Paris already on edge after deadly terrorist attacks last month by radicals, such flights raise tension. An investigation is under way into who was operating the latest drones buzzing over Paris, and why. Such flights are banned over Paris skies.

The drones flew in three stages while the capital was under darkness, said Paris prosecutors’ spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre. First, one was spotted above the US Embassy, then one at the Eiffel Tower, and then later drones were spotted over the Louvre Museum in central Paris, the Bastille monument to the French Revolution in eastern Paris, the Montparnasse tower in southern Paris, and the Interior Ministry headquarters, she said.

A Paris police official said at least five drones were involved. Officials with the police, gendarmes and prosecutor’s office said it’s unclear who was behind the flights and even whether they were all coordinated. The US Embassy would not comment on the incident.

A small drone crashed on to the White House lawn last month, raising US concern about the phenomenon.

The issue of drone safety came into sharp focus last month in Dubai, when recreational drones forced the closure of Dubai airport for 55 minutes after they veered dangerously close to the flight path of commercial airliners. As a result, some aircraft had to be diverted to Al Maktoum Airport in Jebel Ali.

In France it is a growing worry after dozens of sightings of mystery drones over nuclear plants and military installations — and one over the presidential palace. Investigators have yet to find most of the perpetrators.

French authorities have said the drones currently present no threat, but the government is trying to find ways to counteract the devices. Some fear the drones could be spying on technology or could one day be equipped with weapons.

Drone operator Jean-Luc Fournier, who has consulted on French drone legislation, said authorised operators condemn such rogue flights because it casts the whole industry in a bad light.

Experts say the potential for drone crashes is also very high. Statistics compiled by the Washington Post in 2014 found that over 400 of the US government’s high-tech, professionally-operated drones worth millions of dollars crashed around the world between 2001 and 2013.

Concerned by the vast number of recreational drones, flown by untrained and unregistered operators worldwide and fears that terrorists might one day use them for targeted strikes, governments are now scrambling to regulate their usage.

The US government recently established a policy for exports of military and commercial drones, including armed ones, and said it plans to work with other countries to shape global standards for the use of the controversial weapons systems.

The State Department said it would allow exports of lethal US military drones under strict conditions, including that sales must be made through government programmes and that recipient nations must agree to certain “end-use assurances”.

The policy, the details of which are classified, comes after a two-year review amid growing demand from US allies for the new breed of weapons that have played a key role in US military action in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. 

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