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Paris Police Are Shopping for High-Performance Drones to Spy on Crowds

In a bid to enhance security ahead of the city hosting a pair of major sporting events this summer, police in Paris are looking for a near-silent drone that can be used for surveillance operations at night.
Un poliziotto francese pilota un drone. (Foto via Ministero degli Interni della Repubblica Francese)

Paris police are seeking to acquire a new fleet of drones for "low altitude aerial surveillance" to enhance security two months before the city is due to host a pair of major sporting events.

The government already indicated last week that it plans to extend a state of emergency that has been in effect since last November's terror attacks. France will host the UEFA Euro 2016 soccer championship and the Tour de France bicycle race, and wants the state of emergency to last until the end of July.


Meanwhile, a design brief issued by the police and published by the French tech news site Nextinpact indicates that police in the capital are looking to expand their drone fleet with compact drones with six electric motors known as "hexacopters." It suggests that officers will primarily employ the drone to survey outdoor crowds within a one-kilometer radius.

Related: Mysterious Drones Spotted Over French Landmarks – Again

According to French daily Le Figaro, the police are planning to spend 429,600 euros ($485,000) on its new "eyes in the sky." It is not yet known how many drones law enforcement is hoping to acquire for that amount.

With a minimum speed of 36 kilometers per hour, these drones will be slightly slower than the average Tour de France cyclist. The police brief says that they must be equipped with an automatic mode and able to take off vertically, climbing up to 100 meters in altitude. The drones will be mounted with HD cameras with infrared thermal capabilities for use in nighttime operations.

Police want the drones to be able distinguish the numbers and letters on a vehicle's license plate from a distance of at least 50 meters and at an altitude of 30 meters.

As well as being "robust and flexible," the drone and its control system have to fit in the trunk of a car. Paris police expect them to be easy to operate, requiring no more than five days of training — even for an officer who has never flown one before.


They're also meant to be quiet — the police are keen to invest in a drone with an efficient propulsion system, to keep noise to a minimum.

To prevent their drones from being hacked and intentionally flown into crowds, the police plan to use an encrypted connection between the drone and its operator. There will also be an "automatic return" function for aborted missions.

France has been looking to expand its drone arsenal for a while. In 2014, candidates to the police commissioner exam were even quizzed about the strategic uses of drones in public safety. In August 2014, the head of the police's technical and logistics services Philippe Caron said that officers could soon be using drones "to gather information in high-risk areas without having to deploy personnel."

Related: French Special Forces Stage Mock Terror Attack So They Can Learn to Get Along

Last week, officers from France's elite Research and Intervention Brigade operated drones as part of a simulated terror attack in a French train station.

It is believed that the set of drones being acquired will be sent out over areas surrounding soccer stadiums during the Euro 2016, including parking lots and designated "fan zones" where soccer fans can congregate to watch games live on a giant screen.

The widespread availability of drones has proved a headache for the country's security forces in recent years, with a rise in illegal flyovers of sensitive sites, including government buildings and nuclear power stations, prompting a number of police investigations.

Follow Pierre-Louis Caron on Twitter: @pierrelouis_c

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This article originally appeared in VICE News' French edition.