France orders anti-drone system for Olympics, rugby World Cup

France anti-drone

The French Defense Ministry has selected a group of tech companies led by aeronautic, security, and transport giant Thales to produce an anti-drone system tailored to micro and small UAVs, for deployment during the France-hosted World Cup of Rugby in 2023 and Paris Summer Olympics the following year.

The Defense Ministry said the collective of tech companies headed by Thales and the CS Group had been granted the contract to produce an anti-drone platform capable of detecting, identifying, and neutralizing smaller, non-military craft. The $377 million project is tasked with producing a modular, easily transportable system that can spot and respond to consumer-sized and smaller aerial vehicles whether they’re transmitting electromagnetic waves or not.

The specs for France’s new anti-drone system anticipate domestic, non-combat deployment against micro drones as small as insects, and consumer UAVs ranging from 50 centimeters and larger. 

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French officials said the conception and production contract covered six units of the future platform, and initial deployment during the 2023 World Cup of rugby, and less than a year later at the Paris Summer Olympic Games.

The accord also contains an option to buy additional numbers of the aerial security asset after that – an eventuality the Defense Ministry statement seemed to suggest is likely.

“If new solutions are needed because there are new drone technologies, then we will be able to… integrate these new solutions on the systems,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Hervé Grandjean, noting those potential anti-drone tech additions might well include laser devices.

Read more: France tests anti-drone laser weapon for use at 2024 Olympics

France launched the bid for the anti-drone system dubbed PARADE (for ”protection déployable modulaire anti-drone”) last year, and announced its choice of the Thales-led group this week. In doing so, officials said the platform would be equipped with a goniometer for detecting suspect UAVs’ approach angle, as well as radar, optronic, and jamming capabilities.

France began studying and commissioning anti-drone systems tailored to smaller craft over half a decade ago, when it saw consumer UAVs deployed by Islamic State and other radical or terrorist groups in the Middle East. 

Officials also clearly consider the potential for domestic malevolent drone use significant, especially during large public events. According to a report by the nation’s upper house of parliament, the number of drones in France “grew from 400,000 in 2017 to 2.5 million today… (including) 40,000 weighing more than 800 grams.”

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