Patroller drone flies over Champs-Elysées during July 14 Bastille Day parade
For the first time, in 2017 the Safran Electronics & Defense' Patroller drone flew over the Champs-Elysées during the traditional military parade on July 14, Bastille Day, a national holiday. The Patroller was chosen in 2016 by the French defense procurement agency DGA (Direction générale de l'armement) for the army's tactical drone system. It will enter service in 2019.
We asked the three main actors in this operation – Sylvain, aircraft operator, Hervé, payload operator, and Jérémie, mission leader – to share their experiences during this unprecedented performance.
Jérémie : The aircraft was remotely flown from the Pontoise airfield. Current regulations allow drones to be flown outside of so-called ‘segregated' spaces, meaning those closed to general air traffic. The system was operated along with a ‘safety pilot', who could take over the controls if there was a risk of interfering with another aircraft. The ground control station was operated by a crew of three: a mission leader to coordinate all operations, an aircraft operator to remotely control the flight path, and a payload operator, to control the gyrostabilized camera array."
Hervé : "The flight was not very complicated technically speaking; the problem was above all one of time management, because all operations are coordinated down to the split second! We had to be at the right spot at the right time to get the best video shots, while also complying with all requirements concerning our place in the aerial display. The flight lasted five hours, but we didn't have the time to be bored!"
Sylvain : "The ground control station is fitted with large display screens and maps that allow us to track the drone's position, while also controlling flight parameters and the different aircraft systems in real time. Above all, they allow us to see video displays from the different cameras at the same time. For our Bastille Day flight, we didn't have to call on the cameras' full performance capabilities to provide shots to various media outlets."
Jérémie :"This type of high-stakes flight is always a very intense moment for all crew members. And by that I mean not only those working on the actual day of the flight, but also everybody involved in the preparations, in this case in conjunction with staff from the different French ministries involved in the parade. In fact, this type of work really brings people together. Our flight on July 14, 2017 will remain engraved in our memories, because it was literally exceptional. We're also very proud to have showcased Safran's expertise so visibly, and to have contributed to this major event for our country."