The mystery of drones over Paris

At least five unmanned aircraft were spotted flying over Paris in the early hours on 24th February. The following evening more reports had come in claiming that the drones had returned. They had been seen flying over delicate landmarks within Paris such as the Eiffel Tower, the Tour Montparnasse skyscraper and various nuclear sites. Even recently there have still been reports, carrying the estimated amount of sightings to 60. The drone sightings couldn’t have come at a worse time for France: the Charlie Hebdo incident back in January has heightened the nation’s security and these eye-witness accounts of drones will only develop a level of paranoia within the country.

The drones spotted are not military-style ones but are commercially available so whether they are used for air reconnaissance or merely used by mischief-makers remains a mystery. It is illegal to fly a drone at night in Paris and previous arrests have been made.

The fear presented after the reports of drones over Paris can resemble the days of the Cold War and particularly the U-2 spy plane incident of 1962. It could be argued now however that the state of fear and uncertainty is even worse than it was during the Cold War, as the perpetrator remains unknown. Is this the problem with introducing the purchase of drones into the consumer market? How far does it have to go to become a national or global security problem? It is certainly an issue that can divide people who favour the individual over the state or the state over the individual.

Commercially available drones are one thing, but military-style drones have different ethical issues altogether. The drone is Obama’s choice of weapon, according to the Bureau of Investigate Journalism between 2004 and 2012 there have been around 330 strikes in Pakistan alone, with the total of people killed being between 2,479 and 3,180. While the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) removes the requirement to place conventional troops on the ground, the assumption that every drone targets exactly what it is supposed to is a lie.

A number of civilian casualties result from the usage of UAVs. However the Western media coverage over the devastating effect of drones is absent. John Oliver points out that drones are used so much in Pakistan that they have become a way of life, and that even the news coverage in Pakistan features drone graphics when showing the weather report. With the drone attacks and surveillance in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, this brings up another issue: where do the borders of countries actually begin and end?

If America has the power to invade the air space of other countries that it sees to be their ‘enemy’ whilst other countries such as Iran and Russia have also obtained drone technology, then a case for global paranoia could develop where, as in the Cold War era, the United States and the Soviet Union will have their suspicions on each other, and can spy on each other without being traced. Rather than complimenting an age of globalism, the increased use of drones is only serving to heighten international tension.


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Cameron Sparkhall