drone (from the English word meaning drone 1 ) or without pilot means an aircraft without human on board (but most often remote controlled). The drone can have a civilian or military use. In France, the regulations incorporate aeromodelling activities with drones 2 . Drones are used for the benefit of armed forces or security – police , customs – of a state.

Its size and mass (from a few grams to several tons) depend on the desired capacities. Autopilot or from the ground allows long flights of several tens of hours (compared to the typical two hours of autonomy of a hunter ).

Some non-ballistic missiles , especially cruise missiles , have the aerodynamic appearance of drones, but are not reusable because they are destroyed at the end of the mission, unlike the drone that is brought back to its base.

In France, the regulation is under the jurisdiction of the civil aviation code, the transport code and the DGAC. In the United States, the regulation of drones is the responsibility of the FAA and NASA 3 . In Europe, for EASA , national authorities are responsible for less than 150 kilograms 4 .


The term ” drone ” refers first and foremost to a target aircraft. An automated aerodyne and the associated implementation system are also called “UAVs” (for ” Unmanned Aerial Vehicle “or “air vehicle without human on board”) and more and more often “UAS” (for ” Unmanned Aircraft System”). ” Or” aircraft system (s) without human (s) on board “).

The organization of the International Civil Aviation has meanwhile retained the name “PSAR” (for ” Remotely Piloted Aircraft System ” or “aircraft system controlled remotely”).

The use of the word “drone” to describe a vehicle or robot land, surface or submarine, with autonomy, is a French particularity. The US classification of self-contained, man-made mobile aircraft in UAV / UAS (air), USV / USS (surface), UUV / UUS (submarines), UGV / UGS (land robots) is the most commonly used in the world .

The term “drone systems” tends to predominate because the drone is part of a system that is composed of:

  • one or more air vectors equipped with detection sensors (with possible intruder detection systems in “uncertain environment” 5 );
  • one or more stations on the ground control and collection detections;
  • radio data links between the overhead vector and the ground portion.

The term “drone” refers most of the time to the equipped air vector. It is this vector alone which is uninhabited, the system makes him appeal to humans, the tele-pilot in particular.

The family of military drones is subdivided into subcategories according to their speed, their range and their functions:

  • the micro- and mini-drones , generally not autonomous, but often act as “remote binoculars” 6 , for example to watch over an obstacle or a danger zone;
  • Tactical drones, slow or fast, medium or high endurance, fixed or rotary wing called TUAV (for ” Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle ” ) 7 or VTOL ( ” Vertical Take-off and Landing ” ) 6 . For NATO, a UAV is “a powered air vehicle, which does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic force to provide lift, can fly autonomously or be remotely piloted, be non-reusable or recoverable, and carry lethal or non-lethal payload. Ballistic or semi-ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and artillery projectiles are not considered drones 6 » ;
  • the drones flying at medium altitude and endurance called MALE (for ” Medium Altitude Long Endurance ” ) 8 ;
  • the drones flying at high altitude and long endurance called HALE (for ” High Altitude Long Endurance ” ) 9 ;
  • the combat drones , also called UCAV (for ” Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle ” ) 10 ;
  • Automated transport vehicles appear to be in preparation, including for the transport of personnel 6 , which could also be used for rescue at sea 6 .

Flying machines of reduced size, cheaper and easier to implement than an airplane (the presence of a pilot imposes a dimension to an inhabited aircraft, and its ejection device alone represents a mass greater than that of a Predator ), they are more discreet and their loss is less serious than that of a device and its pilot. They represent an interesting alternative for countries with limited budgets, and potentially for potential terrorists (state or non-state), smugglers and drug traffickers.

Advances in computing and technology have made some drones target- designation platforms or weapons . They also serve the collection of information and in the electronic warfare (including for jamming or interception of communications) 6 . Their missions are then the ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Recognition ) or the ISTAR (for ” Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Recognition ” 6 ).

Their civil applications include controls on traffic, the maritime surveillance 11 and environmental air search operations and rescue, the collection of data of interest weather or difficult environment (area CBRN risk – “nuclear, radiological, bacteriological and chemical “- for example), the relay of information, the taking of aerial photographs even soon the direct acquisition of photogrammetric data 12 …

Some are technological demonstrators that validate at lower cost, thanks to downscaling and therefore the amount of materials needed, aerodynamic formulas or certain equipment, without risking the life of a test pilot . They also make it possible to reach the limits of an aircraft, surpassing those that could support a pilot (+9 g / -3 g maximum), in order to confirm its solidity.

Their size varies from a few centimeters to several tens of meters (nearly 40 meters span for a Global Hawk ). Their shapes also, like their types of propulsion : some are equipped with reactors , others with propellers , when others use rotors , like helicopters (sometimes called UAR, for ” Unmanned aerial rotorcraft ” ). “Terrestrial drones” are also used, particularly for the inspection of vehicles or an environment at risk.


The classification of drones varies by context and country.

The UAV can be classified according to several criteria:

  • The altitude and endurance (tactical UAV, MALE, HALE)
    • the altitude considered is the cruising altitude with the following orders of magnitude: the average altitudes 5,000 m <h < 15,000 m ; high altitudes: h> 20,000 m ;
    • endurance is the time that the aircraft can spend in flight. An order of magnitude of a so-called long endurance is 20 to 40 hours ;
  • size (length, wingspan , etc.);
  • their ability to carry weapons or not (surveillance drones / armed drones / combat drones);
  • their stealthiness or not;
  • their ability to participate in high intensity or low intensity missions;
  • their wings (fixed, rotating or swinging).

The most widespread ranking is based on the altitude and endurance criteria 14 , to which can be added the category of combat drones:

Segment Examples
Tactical Drones or TUAV
(Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle)
RQ-7 Shadow , Sperwer , Hermes , Watchkeeper
Mid-altitude, long-endurance flying drones (MALE)
with a mission load of up to 500 kg
Anka-A , Predator A , Reaper , Harfang , Talarion , Mantis / Telemos, Heron TP
Drones flying at high altitude and long endurance (HALE) Anka-A + , Global Hawk , Phantom Eye
Combat Drones (UCAV) Anka-B , X45 , X47 , nEUROn , Taranis

The tactical segment breaks down into five sub-segments:

  • micro-drones ( Micro Air Vehicles or MAVs ), which are more like model cars 16 ;
  • very short range drones (TCP) 17 ;
  • slow medium-range UAVs (multi-mission multicharges or slow MCMMs);
  • low altitude fast drones (fast MCMMs);
  • tactical maritime drones (DMT) 18 .


The concept was born during and after the First World War : prototypes of radio-controlled unmanned airplanes were born, with attempts at “aerial torpedoes” (such as the Kettering Bug ) remotely controlled by wireless telegraphy and carrying a gyroscope , but this type of aircraft has never been operational on the ground 19 , 20 . In 1916, in the United Kingdom , the Aerial Target , a target aircraft project , was designed by engineer Archibald Low  (en) 21 . In 1917, in the United States , the Hewitt-Sperry automatic airplane projectengineers Elmer Ambrose Sperry , Lawrence Sperry  (en) and Peter Cooper Hewitt develops.

In France, July 2, 1917, pilot Max Boucher flew a Voisin plane “without the intervention of man” on 1 km 22 . At the beginning of 1918, Georges Clemenceau , president of the Senate Committee of the Army, launched a project of “planes without pilots” 23 . Captain Boucher improves his autopilot system, and on 14 September, he flies for 51  minutes on a 100  km run a BN3 Voisin aircraft 22

The first French drone strict sense has been designed, built and tested in 1923 in Etampes by engineer Maurice Percheron and Captain Max Boucher but the French army did not yet found interest in this new technology 22 , 24 .

In English, the word ” drone ” refers to the drone (male of the bee). The name was derisively given in the 1930s in the UK to DH.82 Queen Bee, the automated version to serve as De Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth’s target aircraft : their slow, noisy flight was more like that of the bumblebee to ephemeral life than that of a queen bee ( Queen Bee ). This name was taken over by the US Army in 1941.

Prototypes of stand-alone target aircraft were then built in the United Kingdom and the United States of America in the years 1934-1938, in which the OQ-2 Radioplane, which was initially a toy in the reduced size unmanned, was built in several copies 20 before attracting the interest of the US military. In 1941, the US Navy commissioned a new model called Target Drone Denny 1 (TDD-1), made in Los Angeles with over a thousand copies.

The German army developed from 1938 research on vectors guided remotely and in the form of planing anti-ship bombs, antitank radio-controlled bombs and mostly tracked vehicles wire-guided : in 1943 for example, was operational on Goliath , of after the prototype confiscated from Adolphe Kégresse .

Unmanned aircraft V1 and the German V2 missile of the Second World War (1939-1945), neither guided at a distance nor capable of autonomous navigation (except for the scheduled final fall of the V1) can be considered as drones . However, they are more assimilated to flying bombs, but the right-wing V1 and dorsal pulsorejet served as a model for target aircraft (” drone ” in English). During this war, the drones stricto sensu are still only experiments 20 , although the Goliath can be controlled remotely by wire.

The great rise of drones dates from the Korean and Vietnamese wars . At this time of the Cold War , the drone was developed confidentially by the United States of America as a means of strategic superiority and capability rupture to allow surveillance and military intervention in the enemy without incurring the human risks that the public did not support. It is used to drop leaflets as part of psychological warfare . This superiority was acquired through technological innovation, especially in the fields of automatic and transmissions 25 .

Transfers to Israel of certain systems have enabled this country to develop pragmatically a collection of short and medium range tactical UAVs and direct data transmission .

UAV research and manufacturing programs intensified during the Cold War, the incident of the U-2 revealed the need to develop unmanned aircraft 25 . To limit the costs of wind tunnel tests and flight tests, many projects rely on advances in advanced aerodynamic modeling (and modeling of the behavior / reactivity of the drone), 26 but the lack of pilot edge poses new problems during flight tests 26 .

In the 1990s, the doctrine of the “zero death” war led to the development of armed drone projects around the world, 20 but the very first use of these took place during the Iran-Iraq war,where Iran deployed a drone armed with six RPG-7s 27 .

In the 2000s, the drone is of all conflicts and peacekeeping operations , including in Kosovo or Chad , during US air raids in Pakistan or against maritime piracy , by the Americans who introduced it in 2009 28 .

In , the United States authorizes the first flight of a commercial drone, with the shipment of an aircraft to Alaska 29 .

The drone market is currently booming, with sales increasing from 62 million euros in 2012 to an estimated 288 million euros in 2015 30 . In 2016, the Dutch authorities announced that they have trained eagles and have posted around sensitive sites (military facilities, nuclear power plants) so that they catch drones wanting to fly over the perimeter forbidden, and relate them to the ground 31 . In addition, the Technical University Eindhoven has announced that it has developed a domestic drone capable of bringing drinks to the cafe terraces 32 , the project being tested under real conditions.


Portion of English text to translate into French

Drones can carry:

  • a camera, able to broadcast in real time what is happening on the ground;
  • an infrared camera , detecting heat (human, animal, fire, motor, etc.);
  • a gyroscope for stabilizing the movements of the drone, improving the tracking of a target 33 or the quality of an image.
  • The possibility of forming a swarm of collective intelligence UAVs , for civil or military applications.

Drones “observe” in four different ways: visual, radar , infrared , radio and electro-optical , and can keep a photographic trace or / and video .


Drones can move with a greater or lesser load on board (more or less depending on the power and configuration of the drone). The load is often fixed in internal bunkers.

Some companies like Amazon.com , UPS or Allship in France, are considering the delivery of their customers using drones 34 , 35 . In December 2013, DHL successfully tested the delivery of a package from one bank to the other Rhine in Bonn using a md4-1000 from Microdrones 36 , 37 . The UAE have designed a drone dedicated to the delivery of official documents and packages 38 .

Scientific research

Drones can explore, penetrate, skirt or overfly dangerous areas or simply inaccessible to humans (eg cliffs, canyons, facades, canopy, water surface, volcanic craters, etc.). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) and used since 2006 a Aerosonde as a hunter of hurricane . Drones are increasingly used for mapping and observation of habitats and certain species. Recordings of bird songs made by drones are as well made as by experienced ornithologists 39 . In 2017 an altitude record was published ( 4,900 m) for an ultra-light six-rotor hexacopter drone designed to map tropical glaciers more precisely than satellite cameras, in order to measure their responses to climate change. Some authors, however, invite to take into account the ethical aspects of remote sensing tools or risks of diversion for poaching in particular, even if drones for example also start to serve for anti-poaching 40 .

Endurance and stealth

Since drones are not limited by the physiological capabilities of a human crew, they are mostly limited by the supply of energy. Currently, long-endurance drones have a range of up to more than 40 hours . Solar-electric drones have virtually unlimited potential for flight, a concept originally championed by AstroFlight Sunrise in 1974 and much later by Aerovironment Helios Prototype.

In the United States, a project called “Vulture” (“Vulture”) aims to create a drone with an autonomy of about five years, 41 which implies a high resistance of mechanical parts.

Drone Time Dated Description
MQ-1 Predator 45 hours Recon and Attack Drone 42
RQ-4 Global Hawk 36 hours 2001 One of the few drones in the HALE class
RQ-2 Pioneer 5 hours This drone can be recovered by means of a net (ship) or conventional landing 43
Thales Watchkeeper WK450 +16 hours Tactical drone used by the British Army
RQ-7 Shadow 4 hours Used by US Army and US Marine Corps 7
RQ-11 Raven 80 minutes The Raven drone is launched by hand 44
MQ-8 Fire Scout 6 hours + Fully automatic reconnaissance helicopter designed by Northrop Grumman 45
K-Max UAS  ? Logistic drone designed by Kaman and Lockheed-Martin 46

The best known example is the HALE Global Hawk US to Northrop Grumman , which in April 2001 , flew from California until Australia . Shortly thereafter, in October 2003 , as part of the German Euro Hawk initiative and in cooperation with EADS, a similar UAV flew a transatlantic flight from California to northern Germany in demonstration flights from this country.

Survival of a military drone: it is improved by stealth and where the ability to move to operate at high altitude, and possibly by means of response to anti-aircraft defenses (ADA), which involve expensive sensors, decoys, Shooting or avoidance capacity 6 , 47 …

Technology Transfer

Involuntary technology transfer can take place in the case of the capture of drones by the enemy.

Iran captured an American RQ-170 Sentinel in December 2011. Iran claims to have been successful in reverse engineering the drone. Countries such as China and Russia have approached Iran for information on the device 48 , 49 .


In the United States

Armed Forces

The United States armed forces have had the largest fleet of drones in service since the 1990s . Their number and roles are increasing, supplementing or replacing the piloted aircraft that have seen their numbers decrease since the 1980s as a result of the explosion of the costs of modern and more efficient aircraft.

In January 2010 , the inventory is 6,819 drones of all types, including about 200 HALE high altitude aircraft ( Predator , Reaper , Global Hawk …), and the staffs claim 800 drones at high altitude for the future.

The US Navy will spend such a budget these drones 2 billion of dollars for the period 2013 – 2015 , budget that could rise to 7 billion in 2020 50 .

According to The Guardian , drone strikes would be particularly deadly for civilians. For 41 Islamist leaders targeted by US drones, to anoint 1147 civilians were killed, including dozens of children 51 .

Intelligence Services

A study by Amnesty International accuses the United States of using, under the guise of the CIA , the intelligence service of that country, drones in a completely clandestine manner 52 to carry out extra-judicial executions at the international level. This is considered a violation of international law and does not allow the victims, often innocent (ten times more victims than with conventional aircraft 53), to claim compensation in the United States. Cases of elderly women working in the fields and children or laborers killed on their sites have been reported by Amnesty. At this also adds that these drones indiscriminately kill anyone attempting to rescue the victims 54 .

The murder of the small proportion of active members in the armed struggle and killed by the drones is also a war crime according to international rules, which allows to kill a military adversary only if it is a direct threat or that it actively participates in a confrontation 54 .

On 21 November 2013, Pakistan , an ally of the United States, also condemned the violation of its territory under international rules and called for an end to these attacks because of the number of innocent civilians killed by them. The attack occurred a day after acceptance by the United States, with Nawaz Sharif , Prime Minister, not to use drones on Pakistani territory 55 .

Homeland Security

In June 2013, the FBI admitted to using surveillance drones on the American territory. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on June 18, 2013 that “the biggest threat to the privacy of Americans is the drones … and the very weak regulations that exist today on them. ” , And, moreover, Congress has imposed that US airspace be open to drones by October 2015 56 .

The use of drones for domestic security in the United States, after a military use in foreign territory, was anticipated in 1973 by a group of scientists, peace activists and publishing in a journal called Science for the People 57 .

Offensive Drones and aviation security

Like every technological innovation, the drone can be diverted from its original use for criminal use. Aviation security specialists are already working on several hypotheses, particularly concerning rotary-wing stealth drones that could carry or deposit an explosive charge on a target. The threat is realistic with regard to light structures or gatherings. One of the parades devised by the US authorities and the establishment of anti-aircraft neutralization devices, such as high-power lasers pointed at the drone would melt its electronic flight devices. The “anti-drone guns” able to disable these devices up to a distance of 2 km in a signal interferencebetween 2.4 and 5.8 GHz are tested in 2016 58 . Some raptors are trained to intercept drone small size 59 . In France, the use of smooth-bore weapons, authorized 60 by the Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, may not be very effective.

For these reasons, certain places, such as agglomerations, are prohibited from flying over drones, particularly in France 61 .


Drones may soon play a greater role in search and rescue in the United States . This was demonstrated by the success of the use of drones during 2008 with the hurricanes that hit Louisiana and Texas .

Underwater drones could be useful to slow and patient demining work where it is needed 6 .

In Germany

In Germany , the interior minister of Lower Saxony , Uwe Schünemann ( CDU ) was the first to call a drone for police operations, in this case to monitor protesters opposing the transport of a convoy of radioactive waste to the Gorleben site 62 .

In France

French Army

The French Air Force began to use dronised planes as a flying target from the late 1950s, the first test flight with a Vampire 1 taking place on October 12, 1957. In 1995, it chose the IAI RQ-5 Hunter  (in) at short range to get acquainted with intelligence drones. It deploys 4 copies of these to Kosovo in October 2001 within the drone experiment squadron, the newly created EED-1/330 “Adour”. They are withdrawn from service in 2004 63 .

From 2008 , the French Air Force puts into service four military drones EADS Harfang Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) for intelligence within the squadron experimentation drones 1/330 “Adour” in Mont -de-Marsan (Landes); this unit depended on the Military Air Experimental Center (CEAM) and now depends on the Air Force Command. It has been renamed Drone Squadron 1/33 Belfort since September 2010. The experiment took place in 2008 – 2009and followed four phases. Initially, it was intended to familiarize the squad with the platform and to familiarize operators with the sensors, then disseminate intelligence C4ISR and then transfer the information flow to ground forces 64 .

Three Snowy deployed to Bagram in Afghanistan from 3 February 2009 ( st flight 18 February the 65 ), served by 25 persons 66 . One of these aircraft was repatriated following an incident in early April 2009 67 . March 4, 2010, the Snowy system with Rover for retransmission in real time on the ground of his images, made its first flight over the Afghanistan 68 . In mid-February 2012, the 2 Harfangs present in Afghanistan are repatriated after having carried out more than 500 missions and 5,000 hours of flight in this theater of operations 69 .

Four plans are now being processed to acquire new aircraft for the Air Force 70 (notably the Dassault Aviation project : the nEUROn ). In 2013, the military programming law provides for a total of 12 MALE drones by 2019, two American MQ-9 Reaper are acquired at the end of the year, the French manufacturers have not been able to put into service in time an equivalent device.

The French Army begins to experiment with light drones, named until the 1980s reconnaissance missiles, for artillery observation in 1960. Nord-Aviation is in charge of developing a reconnaissance craft, the R20 derived from the CT20 subsonic target craft which was the subject of many campaigns from 1963 to 1970. Entering service in 1966 and built 66 copies 71 , it must provide real-time targeting information that can be passed on to the command vehicle for the Pluto 72 nuclear missile regiments. Not having obtained the expected results, the program of which is the first reconnaissance UAV of Europe is abandoned in 1976. But the programmed arrival of the M270 multiple rocket launcher pushes France to equip itself quickly with a machine operational.

In 1981 , the th regiment which was then the only regiment of the Army of producing original image information has monitoring missile Canadair CL-89 . In 1992 , this material is upgraded to Canadair CL-289 . In 1995 he won the lightweight unmanned aircraft Kestrel , operated by the th group in Phalsbourg then in Chaumont. The th Regiment of Artillery is dissolved on 30 June 1999, he was part of the intelligence brigadeAnd has been transferred and recreated under the name of the 61 th Artillery Regiment from st July 1999 . The Kestrel was retired in 2004 and replaced in 2005 by the Interim Tactical UAV System 73 . The first use in UAV conflict occurs during Operation Daguet when a section of slow UAVs MART (Mini UAV) for the benefit of the French Army is urgently detached under control of the Daguet division .

Civil Use

In 2008, the French police set up the ELSA drone to monitor urban demonstrations or violence 74 .

The brigade of firefighters in Paris tested during summer 2009 a drone called “Minirec” to know the number of people trapped in a burning building 75 .

In May 2012 , two decrees of the Ministry of Transport regulate for the first time the use of civil drones in the airspace. However, the use remains restrictive: the craft must evolve by day outside the populated areas 76 , remain within sight of the pilot, at a height of less than 150 meters from the ground, outside prohibited areas (perimeter around aerodromes , nuclear power stations …) and do not present a “manifest risk of harm to others”. Besides these cases, authorization is required 77 ‘ 78 ; pilots of large drones have to undergo training 79. Among the proposed applications: the detection or monitoring of flood areas or flooded , the erosion 80 , of fire , of oil spills , spraying agricultural pesticides, inspection of power lines and other electrical facilities, gas, oil or railways, or tracks for the construction of motorways, etc.

In 2013, the president (PS) of Marseille’s urban community, Eugène Caselli , suggested making Marseille an “anti-crime laboratory” by using drones to fight against insecurity. Friday, September 19, 2014, the Paris Police Prefecture (PP) performs in Créteil (Val-de-Marne) a real test of using surveillance drones, on the occasion of a meeting of Ligue 2 for soccer ; the prospect being, at Euro 2016 , to make use of drones as at the last football World Cup 2014 in Brazil 81 .

Some French engineering schools also design and produce drones in the context of end-of-studies projects or student associations . ref.  desired] Companies like Tecdron, work on marine and terrestrial technologies for applications in the sectors of industry , civil security, defense security or the media.

In March 2015, overflights of Paris by drones attracted the attention of the media 61 , as well as nuclear power plants.

In Europe, the European Parliament adopted a resolution October 29, 2015 to harmonize legislation and remove the threshold of 150kg 82 .

In December 2016 , La Poste was authorized by the DGAC to open its first regular parcel delivery line, fifteen kilometers between Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume and Pourrières 83 . The first package delivery by drone place December 14, 2016 after two years of testing 84 .

Spring 2017, on the A63 between Bordeaux and Bayonne first road checks with the drones are made by the Forces of Order 85 .

In China

Drones of transport

China has a transport UAV: ​​the AT200 , which can carry 1,500 kilograms of freight in a cargo hold of 10 m 3 . Its first flight of 26 minutes is achieved in 2017, in the area of Neifu airport Pucheng ( Shaanxi Province ), in the northwest of the country 86 .

Classification of drones

Main drones by country

Drones are developed and deployed by many countries in the world, for a list see:

Main article: List of drones .

Other types of drones

  • Underwater drone modified torpedo (UUV: Unmanned Undersea Vehicle ) 87
  • Drone for aerial shots 88
  • Terrestrial Drone (UGV: Unmanned ground Vehicle ) 89
  • Land Combat Drone (UGCV: Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle )
  • Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicle (AUGV )
  • Miniature Earth Drone (SUGV: Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle )
  • Surface Naval Drone (USV: Unmanned Surface Vehicle ) 90 , 91
  • Autonomous Unmanned Surface Vehicle (AUSV )
  • Hydrographer Drone (HUSC: Hydrographic Unmanned Surface Craft ) 92
  • Autonomous Underwater Solar Powered Underwater Drone (SAUV: Solar-powered Autonomous Underwater ) 93
  • Drone autonomous underwater (AUV: Autonomous Underwater Vehicle ) 94
  • Underwater drone (UUV: Unmanned underwater vehicle  (en) )
  • Underwater microphone (MUV: Micro-Underwater Vehicle )
  • Drone for detection of nuclear, radiological and chemical products (NRC). In 2007 , the designer of a machine of this type, the firefighter Luc Brohan, got a price Concours Lépine for his invention 95 .
  • Target drone serving as a target for fighter planes and surface-to-air missiles .

Exclusively civilian drones

Civilian drones are also used more and more to make aerial shots. Video production companies are equipped with devices capable of aerial video that can replace the helicopter equipped with Wescam or even create new angles of view through their low-altitude flight capability.

Various remote controlled equipment is used for low altitude aerial photography.

  • Dragonfly, according to its name, is a robot that comes in the form of a dragonfly . The spy drone uses its four wings to glide and glide like its insect counterpart. Its compact size gives it a great discretion while performing stationary flights. Able to blend in with its environment, Dragonfly’s mission is to photograph places and is suitable for professional or safe use. The drone has around twenty sensors, a lithium-polymer battery and a Wi-Fi connection . An Android or iOS application can control it from $ 95 .
  • an “ecological drone” (V3 96 , helicopter type, silent, carbon fiber, which can be programmed or manually remote control) has been designed for the observation (including infrared) of the marine and coastal environment ( jellyfish , cetaceans , pollution , maritime safety , fires …) 97 .
  • The Parrot leisure drones : the AR.Drone and its successor, the Bebop Drone
  • A drone designed by ONERA , called ReSSAC (Search and Rescue by Cooperating Autonomous System) 98
  • The Yamaha R-Max has already been delivered to more than 1,000 copies [Quand?] , Including several for agricultural application ; it is the only example of drone having already been the object of such a series production.
  • Flying eye drones specialize in 99 photo and video aerial photography.
  • The Drone 2.0 from Delta Drone 100 , is a 4  kg mini-drone specified to evolve in high mountains – in addition to the supervision applications, it has the ability to search and detect avalanche victims.
  • The Pixy UAV, developed by the IRD in Montpellier since 1999 has been reserved initially for scientific photography vertical 101 , 102 then, under the leadership of Aerofilmphoto Services, the manufacturer Philae Concept and Vision of Heaven Industries the have adapted to audio-visual applications.
  • The OnyxStar drones designed by AltiGator 103 are specialized in aerial photography for cinema or television, and technical applications such as cartography , photogrammetry , thermography , agricultural research and public safety . They are approved by the DGAC 104 in France.
  • The drones designed by Reflet du Monde, specializing in aerial photography, the destruction of nests of hornet or the flight of great elongation (RDM ONE). [ref. necessary]

Other new uses of drones are:

  • monitoring and maintenance of poorly accessible equipment. For example, drones are used in France for centralized national telesurveillance by EDF ENR Solaire, a subsidiary of EDF Énergies Nouvelles . This company created in 2009 a Solar Roof Control Center, which in 2013 monitors 550 installations of photovoltaic panels 105 . The high-resolution, gyro-stabilized infrared camera carried by drones shows remote operators possible circuit faults.
  • Some drones are used by leisure to observe people in public or private spaces 106 .
  • Others are used by geographers, biologists and ecologists to, for example, more accurately identify species, detect and map natural habitats 107 , ecological corridors or limit poaching 108 , 109 .

Work also focuses on locating drones 110 and their speed and movements 111 .

Main article: Quadrirotor # Drones .



Since March 2016 it is mandatory to register his drone with the Federal Aviation Administration to fly on American soil. Thus, any owner of drone whose weight is between 250g and 25kg is obliged to register its devices. The absence of proof of registration that could lead to fines or even criminal prosecution.

The process is simple and inexpensive: it is a form to fill online with a standard fee of $ 5. The registration is valid for 3 years for an unlimited number of devices 112 , 113 .


The legal framework applicable to drones includes, at the same time, administrative provisions, aspects of civil law , in particular, tort or contractual civil liability , as well as elements of criminal law 114 .

Their application depends both on their good knowledge by the pilots 115 , and the means of control implemented. Legislation makes the difference between recreational and professional uses.

The French government has created drone regulations to regulate the practice of the recreational drone. It has set up two decrees in December 2015  [ archive ] (in force since January 1, 2016  [ archive ] ), a law on October 25, 2016  [ archive ] and a decree on April 8, 2017  [ archive ] . To simplify everyone’s understanding, the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC) has produced a very simple explanatory note  [ archive ] on the 10 commands of the recreational drone pilot.116

Administrative regulations

In France , the use of drones is governed, on the one hand, by the Civil Aviation Code and by the Transport Code and, on the other hand, by two specific decrees, dated April 11, 2012. First 117 , 118 deals with the design and use of civil aircraft that circulate without anyone on board; the second relates to the use of airspace by aircraft operating without any person on board.

Two new decrees dated December 17, 2015 were published in the Official Gazette December 24, 2015 and regulate the right of drones in France since st January 2016, repealing the two orders of 11 April 2012 (see the arrested blog Thierry Vallat, lawyer at the Paris Bar 119 , and the article in the Village de la Justice of 29 December 2015 120 , as well as the complete analyzes of Decrees 121 and 122 by Aerofilms, including the author of the blog Olivier Deneuvis is a French specialist in drone legislation with numerous publications on the subject).

The new 2015 decrees removed the notion of aircraft categories to account for their take-off weight bands. They also introduced the classification of activities: aeromodelling, experimentation and particular activities.

Some companies are authorized by the DGAC to produce civil drones in series.

The AIRdrone 123 ADmkIV is the first drone approved by the DGAC for use in built-up areas (scenario S3), notably thanks to the integrated parachute.

Certain specific aspects are specified by the Transport Code .Civil liability

The general principles of this civil liability apply to drones, in particular, for damage to third parties, or their property.

Criminal Law

Offenses resulting from the inappropriate use of drones are numerous.

In particular, violations of the rules of the air , or overflight prohibited certain airspace, are punishable by the Penal Code , according to the rules of criminal procedure .


In Canada , in the area of ​​security, Transport Canada is responsible for civilian aircraft. The security required is the same as that of manned aircraft, a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) is required to fly a drone 125 . Some companies develop safe operational practices and supervise drone pilots in their commercial activities. There are training centers, such as the Quebec Aerospace Training Center (CQFA), for flying light drones weighing less than 25  kg .

Incidents in the civil

In July 2013, a 41-year-old man was found dead in Switzerland, in the canton of Lucerne, after being struck by a model helicopter 126 .

In September 2013, a pilot of 19 years was killed after being hit by the blades of his helicopter radio controlled 127 .

These two accidents are concerned with reduced models of helicopters. The biggest difference is that a radio-controlled helicopter has much longer blades and a higher angular rotation speed. In addition, their blades are much stronger (kevlar or carbon fiber) to support this mechanical load.

While a drone is redirected automatically and slowly on the ground to the place where it took off near the pilot during a loss of radio link, a radio-controlled helicopter, not having the capacity to remain in flight alone, s ‘crushed. See the helicopters_radiocontrolled page to post your alarmist accidents.

September 11, 2013, a drone crashes on the crowd during the National Day of Catalonia . Several people were injured, including children 128 .

In April 2014, during a sporting event in Australia, a drone falls on a runner 129 .

On December 22, 2015, during the Madonna di Campiglio slalom descent, a drone crashed a few hundredths of a second after skier Marcel Hirscher 130 .

In Belgium

Since the change of legislation at the end of April 131 , any pilot, observer or drone operator has the obligation to immediately report an incident or accident in which he is involved. Until this legal change, the statistics were therefore based only on voluntary declarations. The administration of the Federal Public Service Mobility therefore has only incomplete data.

In 2015, ten incidents were recorded: five drones sighted during the landing of an airliner, two met by a plane in flight, two others evolved in a protected area while a last one was observed over- above a highway, detailed Minister of Mobility François Bellot (MR) in a written parliamentary response 132 .

At the Brussels South Charleroi Airport, the crew of a Ryanair flight noted the presence “very close” of a drone during the arrival on the ground, also specified the minister.

In 2016, three incidents have already been reported: one concerning an out-of-control drone, flying through controlled areas before crashing into France; the second, a drone crashed in a garden in the province of Limburg (Sint-Truiden) and the last was the subject of a security investigation since it was the overflight of the Tihange NPP .

As a reminder, these figures are not representative of the actual number of incidents, which are steadily growing,


Loss of control of a drone into the crowd, especially when it leads to unconsciousness of a person can lead to a fine and a prison sentence of 133 .

Prospective (the drones of the future)

Some of the planned or ongoing research tracks include:

  • terrestrial or aquatic drones and microdrones equipped with an on- board intelligence and multisensor systems 134 , 135 making them able to move better in the air and / or under water 136 , while being more resistant to turbulence 137 , in the city or in complex, dynamic 138 , uncertain 139 or dangerous environments, possibly imitating animals (with improved visual perception 140 , 141 or an ability to move silently in the dark and in trees, such as an owl for example) through so-called systems “detect and avoid ” 142 , for example through an image analysis system” equivalent stereoscopic vision ” 143 , 144 These drones should benefit from advances in research done on them. autonomous land vehicles 145 ;
    Prototypes of underwater drones or floating (drone-sailboat or solar for example) appear, intended for deep sampling 146 , to monitor, explore the fresh, brackish or oceanic waters and their ecosystems or for research in underwater archeology 147 ( OpenRovfor example), or even to help to clean up a medium 148 , 149 , or to help clean the sea of ​​certain wastes or pollutants ( microplastics 150 , oil spill for example 151 ). ” Open-H2O community ” is a community that promotes this theme a collatorative manufacture , and use of softwares and hardwares in open source . It includes the “Protei” project of “autonomous fleet” dedicated to theexploration and conservation of the oceans;
  • minidrones or drone-detection system associations capable of sampling and measuring air or water pollution 152
  • the swarms or patrols of small or very small UAV capable of individual and group tasks, response to missions “on demand” 153 (eg for environmental monitoring large areas 154 (including water 155 ), detecting soil erosion phenomena 156 , to map or model inaccessible environments whose forest canopy 157 ), or even autonomy (which requires in particular to solve questions of “sharing of authority in a swarm of self-organized drones” ” 158 and mission planning by swarms 159); In this context a swarm of small drones adequately equipped with sensors could replace a network of sensors (possibly wireless 160 ) connected to a terminal by integrating certain dynamics of the environment (tides, currents, seasons, variations of plane level). water, etc.).
  • robots of very different but complementary type can be associated. Maritime, coastal and large waterway surveillance could thus benefit from the concept of “marsupial robot” (eg small drone-boat that can transport and release other robots (aerial or underwater drone) as needed, to associate a surface vision of the sea, aerial and underwater 161 ;
  • the dronization of optionnally controllable devices, evoked by authors such as Asencio & al. in 2010 as “an idea that is making its way” 6 ; the advantage would be to be able to benefit from devices at the market price of series, and equip them to allow under certain circumstances telepilotage by replacing the weight of the pilot by equipment or fuel. An optionally piloted aerial drone could also be used in peacetime in an unregulated space in compliance with civil aviation regulations (which prohibit pedestrian observation drones) 162 ;
  • rescue drones at sea 163 or in the mountains or at disaster sites (for example capable of bringing a buoy, a means of communication and / or a survival kit)

Note the UsAR project developed by the company UAV640 which proposes the use of drone for the dropping of buoy on the banks of the Basque Country; [ref. necessary]

  • the mini-drones combat avatars equipped with automatic weapons, these mini-drones would be adapted for the urban guerilla, the control of the mini-drones being done at a distance thanks to the augmented reality, the soldier moving in a semi-virtual universe equipped with headphones and joystick;
  • manufacturer drones (possibly associated with 3D printers ) or deconstructors , which could build or deconstruct buildings or certain infrastructures.
    A 6 m high tower was constructed as part of the Flying Machine Enabled Construction 164 project .

Challenges and ethical questions (eg protection of privacy ), technical (uses permitted or limited by the miniaturization of drones 165 ), legal 166 and economic (eg consequences in terms of substitution of jobs) and security (including aviation security ) arise for the legislator, users, sponsors …

Drone (and UAV) open source

In the field of aerial drones

In December 2010 , an open source project was born: ArduCopter , fruit of the community DIYdrones.com. This “accelero-gyro-stabilized” drone project is based around an Arduino , a GPS receiver , a barometer, a magnetometer, xyz gyroscopes, xyz accelerometers like most other drones, but it can also embark a multitude of options, such as sonar, lidar, telemetry, OSD 167 . Since the end of December 2011 , ArduCopter is a complete development platform for a radio-controlled drone or fully autonomous robot. It is the first totally open source flying electric robot .

Many projects have developed in this way on the Internet with a lot of documentation:

  • Ardupirates 168 ;
  • MultiWiiCopter (initially based on wii sensors) 169 ;
  • MikroKopter (not fully open source , because GPS router sources are not provided) 170 ;
  • Aeroquad 171 .

In the aquatic field

several projects focus on open-source surface and / or underwater robots, including

  • the OpenRov
  • small autonomous sailboats 148 , 149
  • projects such as OpenBionics open-source initiative 172 (inspired by the project open hand project 173 ) can also make their contribution, especially in the field of gripping.


Applications of morphing technologies combining bionics , biomimicry and / or soft robotics envisage optimizing the structures and shapes (of wings for example 174 ) so that certain drones can slip into small spaces in the water. , to rest on balconies or to dive between buildings, etc. 175 . It has been shown that for aircraft, morphing can be a source of weight (and therefore energy consumption) and additional complexity due to additional structural elements that demand 176 .

In fiction

  • Military drones and their use are at the heart of the movie Eye in the Sky , a British thriller directed by Gavin Hood and released in 2015 .

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