The past two nights in Paris have left police on edge after unidentified drones flew over the key landmarks in the capital, including the Eiffel Tower and the US embassy.
While the flights may just have been orchestrated by a team of tech geeks looking for cool footage of the French capital, authorities are not about to turn a blind eye to the incidents, particularly considering the terror attacks in Paris last month and the 20 or so drone sightings at nuclear power stations last year.
Government spokesman Stéphane Le Foll said that specialist aviation police had launched an investigation to find the culprits.
“We don't need to panic, but it's about being vigilant. This is an issue we need to take very seriously,” he told French newspaper Le Parisien.
“This isn't an easy issue to deal with: Anyone can use a drone and make it fly, but everything is being done to find those responsible – and above all, to ensure that this isn't trivialized,” he added.
But regardless of who is behind the flights, a burning question is how can French police stop them, once they have been spotted. Experts say drones are notoriously difficult to monitor from the ground, and one aviation safety expert told The Local “it's almost impossible” to stop them.
One French company keen to help authorities solve the problem is Malou, which has developed a drone armed with a net, which snags rogue aircraft mid-air (see photo and video below).
Below is a demonstration flight at an airport in La Queue-en-Brie, east of Paris.
Benoit Vallet from Malou, told The Local on Wednesday that their “drone interceptor” could help police in Paris thwart those behind the recent flyovers. He says his company has made regular presentations to authorities to demonstrate the team's skills.
“We believe this is a solution. It offers a way of catching the drone without destroying it. The police are able to bring it down so they can try and find who was controlling it,” he said.
But at €25,000 a pop (including maintenance and training) the cash-strapped French government might not be to keen on stumping up for a fleet of “interceptors”.
Vallet says it's not just the police who could make use of the drone catchers.
“They will come in handy for celebrities too, as drones are used to try and photograph them at home, as we saw at the Elysee Palace,” he said.
It's not just the drones armed with nets that the French police could soon be inquiring about.
Other technology is being developed in the field of drone-interception, including the use of lasers to scramble a rogue aircraft's remote control devices, and string to choke drone's rotor blades from above. China has even developed lasers that can shoot down drones.
Faced with the difficulty of intercepting drones, which come in all shapes and sizes, and their operators, France has launched a one-million-euro programme aimed at developing ways of detecting them.
But bringing them down to earth is an entirely different business, especially in an urban area like Paris.
French aviation safety expert and author Christophe Naudin told The Local that as things stand “drones are almost impossible to catch”.
“The drone-interceptors with nets are ok for small drones that are used for fun, but not for anything bigger. They wouldn't be able to bring down a drone safely that weighs between five and 30kg with a diametre of one metre by one metre.
“It would be very dangerous for the public, so I doubt the authorities would bring these in,” he said.
“At the moment there's just not the technology available to allow us to safely catch drones. This is a new threat. We haven't really got to grips with it yet and that will take time.”