Weeks after terror attacks rocked Paris, the US Secret Service is in contact with French officials in the latter’s attempt to uncover who is flying unmanned aerial vehicles over the city – including over the US Embassy and the Eiffel Tower.
“We had folks from Paris calling us yesterday because of all
the UAV’s [unmanned aerial vehicles] over there,” a law
enforcement official told CNN.
This week, at least five UAVs were spotted over the Eiffel Tower,
the US Embassy, Place de la Concorde and Montparnasse Tower – the
tallest skyscraper in the French capital – as well as over the
presidential palace and nuclear plants, according to French officials.
French authorities do not know who is operating the
civilian-model UAVs, or if the small drones pose a danger to the
Officers have been unable to capture any of the UAVs, and
authorities say they are unsure if the flights were coordinated,
or who may be behind them.
The drone sightings come after heightened security was instituted
in the French capital following last month’s terror attacks which killed 17 people.
It is against the law in France to use civilian drones near
state-sensitive facilities such as nuclear power plants,
“which are protected by a no-fly zone that spans a radius of
2.5km and a height of 1,000 meters,” AFP reported. Drone
owners require municipal permits to fly UAVs over densely
populated areas, and rule breakers face punishments of a year in
prison or a €75,000 (US$85,000) fine.
It was reported Wednesday that three Al Jazeera journalists
were detained in Paris for operating a drone
in an urban area. Sources said, though, that there is no evidence
to suggest the journalists were involved in the drone appearances
over city landmarks in recent days.
“The first was piloting the drone, the second was filming and
the third [was] watching,” a judicial source told AFP.
The US Secret Service, meanwhile, is preparing for UAV readiness
drills around the White House following an incident last month in
which a small quadcopter drone crashed on the White House lawn one early morning.
“The United States Secret Service, in conjunction with other
inter-agency partners, will conduct a series of exercises
involving unmanned aircraft systems, in the coming days and
weeks,” the agency said in a statement.
“Because these exercises will be conducted within the
normally flight restricted areas in the Washington DC area, they
have been carefully planned and will be tightly controlled,”
the Secret Service added in its advisory.