French weather service to use drones to map coolest parts of Paris

The Local France
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French weather service to use drones to map coolest parts of Paris
A drone flies in France (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

If you happen to notice a drone flying overhead while enjoying a picnic at a Paris park this summer - despite the fact that this is normally not allowed in urban areas - don't worry. It's all part of a new heatwave plan by France's national weather service.


Méteo France, has informed the public that they will be using drones to locate the 'coolest locations' in order to more accurately signal them on heatwave maps.

The idea of whirring drones flying overhead in parks may not sound surprising to those from countries where recreational drone usage is common, but in France, the rules around drone usage in France are quite strict - even when it comes to surveillance operations by law enforcement.


On a general level, they are not permitted in any built up, or urban, areas in France. In fact, the country has an interactive map showing all the places drones are usually not allowed to be operated.

READ MORE: Flying a drone in France: What you need to know

But an exception has been made for France's weather service, who will use the devices to take live temperature readings of Paris' public spaces in order to best inform people in central Paris of the coolest spots to go to during a heatwave. 

The city of Paris suffers from the ‘urban heat island’ effect - meaning it is significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas due to human activities - which can push temperatures up an additional 10C during hot periods, with the temperature difference usually larger at night than during the day.

As climate experts warn that heatwaves will likely become more common and severe in the coming years, the city has begun issuing maps of îlots de fraîcheur (cool spots) in the city - these include public air-conditioned spaces, cool buildings such as churches but also the cooler spots of the city - mostly parks and green spaces.

The maps also include the location of drinking fountains and brumisateurs, which pump out cool water vapour.

What have the drones learned so far?

Cécile Demunck, a research officer at the national meteorological research centre, told BFMTV that there are significant differences in temperature, particularly when it comes to cooling at the end of the day. In parks, the heat can drop by up to 4C in the evening/ nighttime, while concrete areas take longer to cool. For this reason, the city of Paris often keeps parks open all night during heatwaves.

She said: "The advantage of the drone is that it allows us to take a small sample of the air near the ground, in addition to various spaces above the ground. Then, we can scan these areas at several different points during the day".

Some of the readings Demunck and her team have found show that there is often a 'cool bubble' phenomenon - reaching up to 50 metres above ground - where temperatures remain lower than surrounding areas.

Meteorologists have often found that these benefits extend to small, green spaces in addition to large parks.

Paris already has an existing network of cooling sites, which consists of 1,200 fountains and almost 1,000 'cool islands' (green spaces, air-conditioned public buildings, swimming areas...), as well as 73 "extremely water-efficient" misting fountains, 10 misters and 24 additional shaded areas to be installed. 


At the start of summer 2023, the town hall also announced that 29 so-called “Oasis courtyards" would be created, to complement the 100 already in existence. These areas have more vegetation than other parts of the city, which has “ a significant impact in terms of cooling”. 

READ MORE: How Paris plans to keep everyone cool this summer - and beyond

The number of cool islands in Paris has increased between five and seven-fold since 2020, according to the mairie, but the goal of information gathering with drones is to help officials find more solutions to better cool cities. 


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