Terrorist attempt, paparazzi, intrusive droner, or unaware tourist? Whoever conducted a drone flight near the summer residence of French President Macron lost their drone, as the secret service managed to jam the aircraft before it crashed into the sea.
The Agence France-Presse reported on August 6 that an unknown type of drone flew over the Fort de Brégançon, the official summer retreat of French presidents since the 60s, located on the French Riviera, 20 miles west of Saint-Tropez. President Emmanuel Macron and his wife are currently on vacation in the Fort, but the presence of the president at the time of the incident has not been confirmed. The area is officially marked as a no-fly zone by the French authority (zone R60 and R64A1), but surprisingly, a quick look at the no-fly zone map of DJI reveals that the area is not restricted by geofencing (the model of drone is still unknown at this point). Ironically, the no-fly zones were first introduced by DJI in 2015 after an inebriated intelligence employee crashed his DJI Phantom on the lawn of the White House.
The well-informed defense blog Opex360 explained that the drone has been jammed and crashed at sea. The general attorney of the nearby city of Toulon opened an investigation and military divers are actively searching the area where the drone crashed. The local sea depth of 100 feet should facilitate the searches.
Most likely, the jamming was done by the French equivalent of the secret service (GSPR) in charge of the president’s security. They probably used a gun jammer, which is nothing more than a high-powered radio transmitter fitted with multi-band radio antennas that was then directed on the drone to saturate radio reception capabilities. Unable to received control input from the pilot or GPS signal to engage a return to home procedure, the blinded drone probably initiated a descent on spot and crashed at sea, as the Fort de Brégançon is surrounded by water.
A terrorist motive behind this drone flight is unlikely, but France is on high security alert after several cases of presumed drone flights over nuclear power plants and the presidential palace in Paris a few years ago. The country has been the victim of several terrorist attacks recently, such as the Nice truck attack that killed 86 persons in 2016. Moreover, last week, Venezuelan President Maduro claimed he was the victim of an assassination attempt carried out by two DJI M600 drones loaded with explosives. Due to the nature of the regime, the details of this attack are unclear and contradictory. Finally, a few days ago, British Prime Minister Theresa May was received for a meeting by the French president in his summer residence.
Most likely, this flight is the result of an ignorant tourist or a stupid drone pilot. In any case, he or she just became the most wanted drone pilot in France.
Lead picture of President Macron by Arno Mikkor, used under Creative Commons.