Mystery drones continue to fly over Paris landmarks

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have appeared over central Paris for the second night in a row, and no one knows who’s operating them.

Officials in the French capital are continuing with their efforts to track down those behind this week’s mysterious quadcopter flights, though they insist they pose no security threat.

The flights follow a number of incidents last year where the flying machines were spotted over more than 12 nuclear power plants across the country despite strict laws prohibiting their use in such locations.

Paris, too, has laws in place banning the flying of any kind of aircraft at altitudes lower than 6,000 meters (19,700 feet) over the center of the city, unless permission from the authorities has been obtained beforehand.

This week, usually late in the evening or during the early hours, UAVs have been spotted buzzing around the Eiffel Tower, the US embassy, and near the Place de la Concorde, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

Commenting on the ongoing incidents, government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said, “There’s no need to worry, but we should be vigilant. It’s a subject being taken very seriously.”

With the French capital still on high alert following the recent Charlie Hebdo terror attack last month, the drone flights are likely to be creating a sense of unease among both the authorities and citizens.

In a development on Wednesday, three Al-Jazeera journalists were arrested in the city after reportedly being spotted flying a UAV. However, the Qatar-based news station says its reporters were filming a piece on the recent drone incidents in the capital, and were not connected to them in any way.

While the French authorities will be working hard to identify the person or people behind the recent flights, it’s likely that the most serious threat they pose to Parisians is if one drops out of the sky and lands on someone.

‘Minimal security threat’

The BBC’s Paris correspondent, Hugh Schofield, described the security threat as “minimal,” adding that the small, widely available quadcopters seen over the city in recent days are “not strong enough to deliver a significant payload of explosives.”

Paris-based Schofield speculates that the flights are “probably the work of drone enthusiasts giving the authorities the run-around, but not certainly. It could also be an organized group – eco-warriors or jihadists, for example – testing out how the security forces respond to drones.”

Increasing incidents

As consumer drones continue to grow in popularity, it’s likely incidents of this nature will only increase. Airports in the U.S., for example, are having to deal with an increasing number of reports concerning quadcopters coming close to planes, despite strict rules banning their operation in such locations.

In an effort to encourage the responsible use of quadcopters, the Federal Aviation Administration recently released a ‘know before you fly’ video advising newbie owners on how to safely operate such machines.