Mystery drones flown over Paris for second night

Agence France-Presse,  theguardian

Authorities remain unable to catch the operators or determine whether the illegal flyovers are malicious.

Unidentified drones have flown over Paris for a second night in a row in the latest mystery appearance of unmanned aircraft over the French capital.

The latest sightings follow a series of drone spottings at French atomic plants last year and, more recently, over the presidential palace and a bay in Brittany that houses nuclear submarines.

Authorities remain unable to catch any of the operators or determine whether the flyovers are malicious in nature, at a time of high vigilance after last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

A police source told AFP that witnesses and security forces reported at least five incidents overnight on Tuesday to Wednesday over central Paris.

The tiny aircraft were spotted near the US embassy, not far from the Invalides military museum, the Eiffel tower and several major thoroughfares leading in and out of the French capital, the source added.

Police had already been trying to find out who was behind the appearance of an estimated five separate drone flights over similar areas of Paris the previous night. “Is it a game? Scouting for future operations? The investigation will show us,” a Parisian police chief said on Tuesday.

Authorities were first alerted to mystery drone flyovers in October, when the state-run power company EDF filed a complaint with police after detecting the small unmanned vehicles flying over seven atomic plants. The sightings continued into November. In total 20 flyovers took place over nuclear plants. Their operators were never found.

French law bans small civilian drones from sensitive areas such as nuclear facilities, which are protected by a no-fly zone that spans a 1.6-mile (2.5km) radius and a height of 1,000 metres. Flying the unmanned craft over the French capital is also banned by law.
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In October, a 24-year-old Israeli tourist spent a night in jail and was fined €400 (£290) for flying a drone above Notre Dame cathedral.

Then on 20 January, a pilotless aircraft briefly went over the presidential palace in Paris. And at the end of January, small drones were seen near a bay in Brittany that houses four nuclear submarines – one of the most protected sites in the country.

Faced with the difficulty of intercepting drones and their operators, France has launched a €1m programme aimed at developing ways of detecting them. The pilotless aircraft come in all shapes and sizes and have a variety of uses, from military applications to surveillance, film-making, sports, disaster relief and scientific research. The most basic unmanned aircraft are radio-controlled by someone nearby, but more sophisticated models can be pre-programmed with the operator miles away.

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