While French drone manufacturer Parrot is well-known, the newest flock of drone businesses covers the full spectrum of the drone industry. New businesses offer drones, hardware, equipment, platforms and services for a wide range of sectors including agriculture, construction, and security. With recent terrorist attacks in France at the forefront of the country’s attention, surveillance applications are developing rapidly. The wine industry benefits from precision agriculture applications. Construction and surveying applications are developing.
And none of this is an accident. “France’s leadership just got it,” said John Chambers, addressing the crowd at the recent AUVSI Xponential conference. Business France Trade Advisor Alexandra El Hachem agrees. “They understood the benefits earlier – in France we have a lot small players, and we wanted to give them all a chance,” she told DRONELIFE.
The DGAC – France’s equivalent of the FAA – got their regulations done early. France published clear risk-based classifications back in 2012, allowing innovation to take off early. BVLOS (Beyond visual line of sight) flight is allowed under certain circumstances; testing of drones and drone technology is allowed in almost any rural area without special certifications, allowing for a tight development cycle.
While aeronautics has always been a big industry in Europe, they’ve primarily been in the military market. By getting their regulations done early and making a top down decision to support the industry, France was able to exploit a niche in the commercial drone industry, Ms. El Hachem explains.
Ms. El Hachem says that the drone industry in France is just getting started. “I don’t know what the future of the drone industry will be… things we aren’t even thinking about will be possible in two years,” she says, and warns industry leaders to keep moving to maintain France’s leadership position. “They’ll need to continue to innovate, and not stand still.”
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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