Drone: friend or foe?

Nearly three million drones were built in 2017, with no fewer than 400,000 of those being sold in France. * (*Fédération professionnelle du drone civil – Federation of Civilian Drone Professionals).

Faced with a boom that extends beyond national boundaries and a proliferation of toys for young and old, the regulatory response has been to crack down. 2019 marks the year in which measures will be taken. Both to raise awareness among the public and to protect civilian infrastructure from possible malicious use.

2019: the year of penalties for illegal drone flights

The first regulations on drone flights date back to April 2012. The safety and security of property, people and other aircraft in the airspace were already top priorities.

On January 1st, 2019, the Decree on “Electronic and Digital Signaling” entered into force, regulating the flight of drones weighing more than 800 grams to:

  • Require obligatory registration of the unit;
  • Impose lighting when the drone is in flight;
  • Mandate a theory test and/or evidence of practical training before starting to fly a drone;
  • Provide an information leaflet with all drones bought, whatever their weight.

Here are some rules to follow to use your drone safely for yourself and the benefit of all:

Professional drones: a wide range of uses

While the very first drones were only toys, they have evolved into a superb professional tool. Indeed, the media (TV stations, film makers and advertisers) prefer them over traditional communications tools. The delivery industry is also another key target market for drone manufacturers. They see it as a favored market over the coming years.

Examples can be found on a global scale although France’s urban drone network is less developed than in other countries. As France has always chosen security over the financial profits that the drone market could bring.

In Japan, the prime minister has encouraged efforts to develop the use of drones in the delivery market. Let’s not forget that the country is a hotbed of technological innovation. It often acts as a model for other countries to follow. Meanwhile, the city of Reykjavik has made significant investments in drones to make it easier to cross the city’s oceanic sounds.

Emergency drones

Nevertheless, the emergency services remain the sector that has experienced the greatest impact as a result of these innovations.

Indeed, the French National Gendarmerie has a fleet of 26 drones, all protected by extensive cybersecurity measures. The local Gendarmeries have as well around a hundred civilian drones distributed in the various départements.

The cyber drones are mainly used for surveillance purposes: ensure that order is established and maintain, particularly during crisis periods or to police major events.

Bernard Gateau, Technical Adviser to the French National Federation of Fire Services, has high expectations of forthcoming technological advances in his field. Some fire departments are already equipped with drones, but there are still disparities among the various units.

Indeed, these tools make it possible to minimize the risks taken by firefighters. While it also increases their ability to analyze a given situation. Drones are still mainly used to fly over fires and measure the extent to which the fire has spread, as well as using on-board thermal cameras to detect likely flashpoints. This technology has already been tested during forest fires in the Bouches du RhĂ´ne region during the summer of 2018.

Drones could also be used to transport equipment for first responders or to search for missing people who have disappeared on the sea or in mountainous region.

Anticipating a drone invasion

According to Colonel Jean-François Morel, the National Gendarmerie has recorded around 370 illegal drone flights since 2012 while 160 incidents have been recorded since 2014, mainly at night:

  • 42% involved flights over nuclear facilities;
  • 22% were flights over urban areas;
  • 19% of incidents took place over military installations;
  • 10% were over critical infrastructure;
  • Fewer than 1% involved prisons, involving the illegal transportation of telephones or narcotics.

The misuse of drones for malicious purposes cannot be prevented. Until effective measures are available, regulation exists to manage their use. Caution is therefore the order of the day, with drones increasingly resembling military hardware. While it is easy to sink into paranoia, it is still clear that a single human operator can control hundreds of drones at once. As such, what will the next stage involved? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the future will give plenty of reasons to worry in the form of smart drones, with unimaginable range and battery life and the ability to interact with one another.

Utopia, or an innovation that has already been tested: who knows what the future holds for the development of these machines and their capabilities?


To read: New tech for emergency call centers