Mysterious sightings of drones in the sky of Paris

Pierluigi Paganini February 26, 2015

Mystery drones have flown over landmarks in central Paris for the second night, authorities still searching for the operators, it’s a mystery.

The rapid diffusion of drones in both civil and military industries is rising a heated debate on privacy and security guaranteed by their technologies. Security experts fear that technologies that equip the UAVs could be abused to for cyber espionage or sabotage. Privacy and civil liberties advocates have raised many doubts about the legitimacy of facial recognition cameras, thermal imaging cameras, open Wi-Fi sniffers, license plate scanners and other sensors common used by drones.

But do we really know what is flying above our heads and who is remotely controlling the large number of unmanned aircraft that crowds our sky. What would happen if a group of terrorists will a drone for reconnaissance before an attack.

The nightmare may come true soon, for sure we do know, at least at the time I’m writing, who was controlling the drones that have appeared in central Paris for the second night. Between 23:00 and 02:00 on Tuesday on Wednesday were recorded five sightings in the skies of Paris.

What worries the authorities are the places where the drones were spotted, Up to three drones were seen near Place de la Concorde, the Invalides military museum and two of the old city gates.

“It is against the law for any aircraft to fly lower than 6,000m (19,700ft) over central Paris. Flying any aircraft under that ceiling – including drones, police helicopters and air ambulances – requires permission from city authorities.” states the BBC in a blog post.

The cases are not isolated, the previous night other five drones were seen in other points of interest, including the Eiffel Tower, the US embassy and key transport gates of Porte de Clignancourt and Porte de Saint-Cloud. The BBC reported that the mysterious UAVs were filmed and the investigators are already working to identify them.

paris drone sightings

“There’s no need to worry, but we should be vigilant. It’s a subject being taken very seriously,” declared government spokesman Stephane Le Foll. Part of the problem was that they were so easy to operate, he said, but everything was being done to catch those involved.

Small drones are compact, easy to carry and conceal in a bag or a backpack. The authorities speculate that small drones don’t represent a real security threat because online there are available Bird’s-eye images of Paris landmarks in high resolution.

This is partially true, small drones could be used to monitor the location of police in areas that terrorists intend to target. Aerial images of the city available online cannot give this information to terrorists that could use small UAVs to monitor strategic places.

The BBC reported that in the past many other cases interested the French capital:

“Last month a drone was seen over the Elysee Palace, home of President Francois Hollande. In October, a 24-year-old Israeli tourist was fined €400 (£293; $453) and spent a night in jail after flying a drone over the city’s historic Hotel Dieu hospital and a police station. Drones were also spotted flying over at least 13 nuclear power plants in France between October 2014 and January 2015.” states the BBC.

I do not want to alarm anyone, likely that the drones flying over Paris are a only publicity stunt, or the work of an amateur, but we can not neglect the possible security risks.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Drones, Homeland security)

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