Receive our newsletter - data-led analysis, original reporting and insights
Community / Public space

Mystery drones spotted around Paris landmarks two nights running

Discomfort in Paris this week: gangs of drones have been buzzing around the city’s landmarks for two nights running. 

According to the BBC, five drones were spotted around the Eiffel Tower, Bastille Square and the US embassy building last night, at heights of 100-300m. That followed at least five sightings over similar areas the night before. It’s illegal to fly a drone out of your line of sight in Paris during the day, and illegal to fly them under any circumstances at night. 

Now, speculation is centering on whether the drones are being used to by amateur videographers to collect birds-eye footage of the buildings (as has been a problem in London) or whether the drones’ owner or owners are scoping out the landmarks for other, more concerning reasons. From the Mail

French security sources where unable to catch the operators of the drones, which are typically fitted with video recording equipment and can be used for surveillance of a terror target to assess security levels and any spikes in pedestrian football ahead of a planned attack.

The BBC’s Paris Correspondent, though, suggests that’s unlikely: 

The security threat from these drones is minimal. Bird’s-eye images of Paris landmarks are available online in far higher quality than anything these devices could produce. And small, shop-bought drones are not strong enough to deliver a significant payload of explosives.

Actually, the risk isn’t terrorism, but bad driving:

…one might get out of control and crash onto a street, injuring a pedestrian or causing a car accident. That is the main reason why flying drones is banned over populated areas of France.

Over the past couple of months, there have also been reports of drones flying over French nuclear power plants; an unmanned aircraft also flew over President Hollande’s palace last month. Paris, meanwhile, is still on high terror alert following last month’s attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket. 

So were the city’s drone sightings the result of an over-zealous YouTuber, or something more sinister? The city’s security services have assembled a 10 person crack team to analyse photos of the drones and find out. Keep watching the skies.
This article is from the CityMetric archive: some formatting and images may not be present.