Drone flies over Macron’s holiday home in wake of Maduro ‘attack’

An investigation has been opened into the flight of a drone over French President Emmanuel Macron’s summer residence Fort de Brégançon on Monday, just one day after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro escaped an alleged drone explosion attack on his life.

Drone flies over Macron's holiday home in wake of Maduro 'attack'
Photos: AFP

French authorities are looking into a drone that on Monday afternoon flew over the southeastern French Cape of Brégançon in the Var, where Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte are spending their summer holidays. 

“An investigation into this drone flight is currently underway,” the Elysée Palace told French news agency AFP, not giving any indication of whether the drone had been shot down for security reasons. 

Macron invited British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) to Fort de Brégançon in Bornes-les-Mimosas before  his two weeks of summer holidays. Photo: AFP

The French government added that “the whole of the President's holiday programme is private and unofficial”, including all outings which he will go on in his two-week summer break.

Fort de Brégançon, a medieval fortress on an islet off the French Mediterranean coast, has been the official retreat of the President of France since 1968.

The drone incident came less that a day after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro survived an alleged assassination attempt involving two exploding drones during a military parade in Caracas.

Maduro has since pointed the finger at neighbouring Colombia, Venezuela’s ultra-right wing and financial backers who live in the US state of Florida, leading some international sources to question the credibility of the alleged drone attack.

But both incidents involving Macron and Maduro beg the question of whether current security measures to protect global Heads of State are equipped and ready to deal with drone warfare and other forms of terrorism by joystick.

Just as crucial is knowing how easy it is for the public to gain access to this cutting-edge and potentially lethal technology.

The world’s commercial drone market has flourished in recent years, with widespread availability and falling prices.

“Quadcopter” for example, drones that can be operated from a mile away and can fly for 20 minutes+ on one single charge cost less than €850 ($1,000 online), although the amount of weight they can carry is limited.

However, terrorist groups such as the Islamic State have already used drones to carry out attacks by dropping grenades or crashing into infrastructure.

There have also been worrying incidents such as January 2015 drone crash onto the White House lawn and a few months later a drone carrying radioactive sand from the Fukushima nuclear disaster crashed into the Japanese prime minister’s office, although the amount of radiation was minimal.

In July, Saudi Arabian security forces also shot down a recreational drone near a royal palace, leading to speculation of a coup attempt.

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Air France plane has very near miss with drone above Paris

An Air France plane came within a few metres of hitting a drone as it was about to land at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, it emerged on Friday.

Air France plane has very near miss with drone above Paris
Photo: Liam McManus/AFP

The incident occurred as the flight from Barcelona to Pairs Charles de Gaulle was beginning its descent towards the runway.

As the co-pilot began the usual landing procedures he noticed a drone in his field of vision. According to reports, he had to switch off the auto-pilot function and carry out a manual manoeuvre to avoid the drone.

The captain estimated that the drone came within five metres of the left wing of the plane during the February 19th flight.

The Airbus A320 plane landed without incident but an investigation was immediately launched by aviation authorities from France's BEA (Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyse), who reported the incident on their website.

They have classed the incident as “serious” and described it as a “near collision”.

Their main concern is to find out how a drone came to be at a 1,500 altitude – when the law prohibits flights above 150 metres off the ground –  and was flying in prohibited no-fly zone around the airport.

Very few models of drones that can be bought on the open market are capable of flying at such a high altitude. Many also include software that prevents them from being flown in restricted areas.

While a passenger plane would be able to withstand any mid-air collision with a small drone, there would be serious complications if the object flew into one of the plane’s engines. The impact could be catastrophic, especially if it occurred over a built-up area.

The areas around airports are included in a list of sensitive sites where drone flights are forbidden. The list also includes nuclear power stations.

In November 2014 French authorities were left concerned after drones were detected flying over various French nuclear power stations.

As many as 16 fly-overs were reported.

Although no one was caught and the government admitted they had no idea who was behind the flights, experts believed it was the work of an environmental group seeking to highlight a lack of security around nuclear plants.

And last year the alarm was raised again when drones were spotted flying at various landmarks across Paris, despite it being illegal.

Police were again unable to catch any of the operators of the night-time flights and it is unclear whether they were the work of pranksters, tourists or something more malicious.

Flying a drone without permission or in a restricted area in France can result in a fine of €75,000 and up to a year in prison.