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How to organize the fight against malicious drones? The response of the Air Force.

The civil drone, which is in the trade for a few hundred euros, may be a great high-tech tool to take photos and videos in high resolution, it can also be a serious threat in case of malicious use . The Air Force has embarked on a vast program to better detect and neutralize them.

READ ALSO >> Malicious drones: the fight intensifies in France

Between them, they lead among the highest instances of the Air Force. The first, General Etienne Patry (E.P), is the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Command (CFA); the second, the general of aerial body, Jean-Christophe Zimmermann (J. C Z.), commands the air defense and the air operations (CDAOA). The two men answer L'Express's questions.

EXPRESS: How to secure the airspace on the national territory?

Jean-Christophe Zimmerman: We are witnessing a real democratization of access to airspace. This phenomenon was identified in 2014 and led to the implementation of new legislative and regulatory tools aimed at developing pedagogy and supervising usage. Devices are provided to identify users of drones greater than 800 grams. Professionals are also encouraged to declare their activities so that all aeronautical users can become aware of them during the preparation and execution of their flights.

What equipment does the army use to detect, identify and neutralize malicious drones?

Etienne Patry and Jean-Christophe Zimmerman: The Air Force was the first General Staff to equip itself against this new threat. For detection, we have JIRTANG binoculars and aeroscopes. For the neutralization, we are equipped with interfering rifles, capable of parasitizing the wifi and GPS signals. Moreover, we must not forget that every staff on the air bases is a potential detector, the first sensor being today the human eye. And on sensitive sites, dedicated intervention teams can identify and challenge tele-pilots. As part of the MILAD program, we have also planned to equip ourselves with semi-automated systems to detect, characterize and neutralize threats. These will be radars coupled to optronic tools [utilisant l’optique et l’électronique] and fixed jammers. The equipment, under development, should be delivered early 2019, but we do not forbid to study other detection capabilities. We closely follow, for example, what Roissy airport is implementing with the Hologarde project.

Drones have very different shapes and characteristics. Some weigh a few grams, others several pounds. The price can also vary from a few tens to more than a thousand euros.

Drones have very different shapes and characteristics. Some weigh a few grams, others several pounds. The price can also vary from a few tens to more than a thousand euros.

afp.com/Tobias SCHWARZ

The French regulatory framework prohibits the use of jamming, except by military forces in the event of a proven threat to national security. What type of threat allows you to use scrambling?

Étienne Patry: The use of jamming is framed: it must be declared beforehand and all the sites to be protected are scrupulously listed in the operator security plan … Which is confidential. From the moment a drone is not allowed to be where it is, jamming can be used.

The Dutch police, who had planned to use raptors to intercept drones, abandoned the project. Where is the experimentation of the Air Force?

Étienne Patry: The final report of the evaluation of raptors, which takes place in Mont-de-Marsan, must be completed by the end of 2018. We will then know if this capacity is permanent or not. I do not want to anticipate the conclusion, but I can tell you that we already have some food for thought. Let's say that the use of raptors may not be significant enough to be retained. Their upkeep is expensive, and they are not as easy to master as dogs. However, they can be useful in places where the use of radiation [radar, brouillage] forbidden. And we are considering specific employment frameworks … which, too, are confidential.

Demonstration of a drone capture by an eagle, September 12, 2016 in Ossendrecht, the Netherlands

Demonstration of a drone capture by an eagle, September 12, 2016 in Ossendrecht, the Netherlands


Are you considering the use of machine learning algorithms (iartificial intelligence) ?

Jean-Christophe Zimmerman: We believe that AI is closely linked to the use of drones, so this is a path in which we must quickly commit. We have created a drone center of excellence (DAC) where specialists are following these topics closely. We are only at the beginning of our thinking, but it is obvious that the contributions of the AI ​​will transform the way of waging war as well as with regard to our command structures as for the materials that we must develop. in the future. Finally, the innovation agency set up by the Minister of Defense, Florence Parly, will undoubtedly have an eye on the development of these sectors and specialized companies that will be associated.

What are the scenarios of anticipation, in other words the new attacks possible by drone, on which works the Air Force?

Étienne Patry: If we tell you the details, it would make the task a bit too easy for the terrorists. What I can guarantee you is that we are considering multiple scenarios. All the measures are stopped according to these strategic expectations: we evaluate the threat, then put in place adaptive devices in case of attack, taking a maximum of margins.

Imagine a drone approaching a military patrol in Paris, do they have permission to fire?

Jean-Christophe Zimmerman: From a regulatory point of view, the use of arms is regulated by the regime of self-defense. In this sense, the drone must attack either civilians nearby or the military themselves. Or, in the broader context of the 2017 Homeland Security Act, the drone would have to be used for terrorist purposes with the intention of killing or causing serious injury. At this point, simply flying over an unknown drone over a patrol will not result in the systematic use of weapons. The priority will be to identify and locate the tele-pilot if it turns out that the drone is in violation.

Which solutions do you prefer in war zones? What material do you use?

Étienne Patry: In a war zone, a drone is considered a vehicle. If it is detected and determined as hostile, we use the means of neutralization at our disposal, like destruction shots. For some areas it is possible to implement dedicated means. On projected bases, we deploy for example personnel equipped with sophisticated binoculars. More and more, the army is also training soldiers to fight against drones through regular firing campaigns on drones. They may have rifles equipped with suitable cartridges or interfering rifles. After the destruction of a machine, it is immediately necessary to find his pilot which also requires to send in parallel teams in the field.

The details of the General Secretariat for Defense and National Security (SGDSN):

"On the legal side, the law of October 24, 2016 details the obligations incumbent on the owners of the drones but also on the manufacturers: addition of a notice in the boxes of packing, registration of the tele-pilot and his drone on a site of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC), obligation of a training of pilot whatever the use (leisure or professional), limitation of capacities of the drone, respects of electronic and luminous reports of the aircraft (for this last point, the texts will be published at the beginning of 2019. In terms of support for the development of anti-drone resources, the SGDSN organized in 2016, after a call for projects led by the National Agency. of the Research, a public presentation of technical solutions of anti-drone control Finally, three demonstrators (ANGELAS, BOREADES and SPID) integrating means of detection, identification and neutralization (radar, tracking, jamming and decoying GPS ) As part of the preparations for the 2024s, the SGDSN will ask manufacturers to devise new innovative solutions in view of the ever-improving capabilities of commercial drones. "