Fears Paris Olympics can’t cope with threat of hostile drone attack

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun12,2024

FRANCE will struggle to prevent drones from disrupting this summer’s Olympic Games, experts warned last night.

More than 300,000 spectators are expected to line up along the banks of the river Seine in July, as 10,000 athletes sail along on some 160 barges in the first ever opening ceremony not held inside a stadium.

Last year, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin singled out drones as “without doubt the main threat to be dealt with”, and the threats are numerous.

While France’s national security alert is already at maximum level following an attack on a concert venue in Moscow in March, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility, memories of the 1972 terror attack on the Munich Games by the Palestinian Black September group are uppermost in organisers minds.

So, too, is the prospect of Russian or Iranian attacks using drone swarms. or even disruption from environmental groups.

With an estimated three million drones in civilian hands in France, President Emmanuel Macron authorised a military solution, and the French defence giant Thales was tasked with providing the Parade counter drone system.

Despite its £300m price tag, however, it can only detect only one in three drones and only within a range of 800 metres. It also can’t distinguish between unmanned hostile aircraft and air conditioning units.

But its biggest problem is that it relies on jamming – the military solution used in battlescapes where the risk of collateral damage is minimal.

“Many solutions which work well in the military sphere aren’t effective in a crowded stadium environment,” said Jeffrey Starr, of D-Fend Solutions, which specialises in counter-drone mitigation technology for major gatherings.

“Radars aren’t effective because we are dealing with crowded skies – from birds to cameras and even authorised drones, which will undoubtedly be used to capture images.

“Often, in closed urban venues, you don’t have line of sight and you cannot attempt to deny an approaching drone until it is too late.”

Civilian off-the shelf drones can range from a £40 quadcopter the size of a phone to the £50k Zenadrone 1000, which measures 2×3 metres and incorporates AI and machine learning software.

Acoustic- based technologies are challenged by ambient noise and an urban landscape means that RF directional finder technology also has issues.

Technology based on jamming , such as Parade, presents the biggest challenge however.

“The problem with jamming is that it is only temporary until the pilot reasserts control,” said Starr.

“And when you jam electronically, you disrupt other vital communications as well, which could severely disrupt broadcasts and result in an embarrassing interruption you were hoping to avoid. “

The last resort is shooting the drones down, which risks injury from falling pieces of debris.

Newer technology does exist, such as Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (CUAS) based on RF Cyber technology which not only detects and tracks but also takes control of the UAV.

In 2021 D-Fend used its EnforceAir system to safeguard Pope Francis, 90 bishops, 500 priests and an estimated crowd of 60,000 worshippers when a rogue drone threatened a large outdoor mass in Slovakia.

“We knew that jammers could potentially disrupt communications systems and there was a concern about halting media transmissions surrounding the Pope’s address during the Mass, as well as disrupting security base stations which could be a security risk. We avoided that,’ said Jeffrey Starr.

“This type of CUAS should be the first resort, followed by jamming which will affect other systems and, finally, the kinetic solution – shooting the thing down.”

With two months to go, Britain has offered to help.

But while the RAF’s Orcus counter drone system does contain technology to take over rogue drones at very close range it, too, largely relies on a jamming system to keep drones at bay.

The threats are not just from terrorists or state adversaries like Russia.

“Panic is a big factor in situations like this. If a drone operated by some well-intentioned activist group began to release even a harmless powder, It would cause a stampede which could lead to many multiple injuries and deaths.”

He added: “The truth is – nothing is always 100 percent hermetically effective, but military derived systems are often not the best solution for crowded and sensitive civilian settings.”

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “Fears Paris Olympics can’t cope with threat of hostile drone attack”
  1. As a security expert, I believe France needs to address the drone threat more effectively before the Paris Olympics. The intensity of the risks posed by drones, especially in the wake of past terror incidents, cannot be underestimated. It’s crucial to enhance counter-drone measures to ensure the safety of both athletes and spectators.

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