After twelve years with a constant drop in road deaths in France, they increased by 3.5% in 2014. The French government reacted and on 26 January 2015 the minister of the interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, presented the prime minister with a contingency plan with 26 road safety measures, of which 19 were implemented on 2 October 2015. On this date the interministerial road safety committee met, chaired by Prime Minister Manuel Valls, which decided on 22 measures aimed at: intensifying the fight against dangerous behaviour; protecting the most vulnerable; introducing road safety to the digital age and guaranteeing equality for all before the law. Among the first batch of measures aimed at combating dangerous behaviour the following are included: “Experiment with the use of road safety drones. Experiment with the use of automated registration plate readers to combat the lack of obligatory driving insurance”.
The French gendarmerie began to use models of drones in a pilot programme to improve road safety and, in a report dated 3 February 2016 concluded the following:
- From a technical point of view, the first device was easier to use, the support with telenavigation was ergonomic and it was autonomous when in flight for thirty minutes. The quality of the image was exceptional. The camera facilitated the reading of a moving vehicle’s registration plate in a photographic format with a one-minute latency. It moved easily from one area of control to another and was very flexible. On the other hand, the second device, in spite of its robustness and autonomy in flight (two hours) displayed drawbacks as a camera because it did not facilitate the reading of registration plates either of stationary or moving vehicles among other disadvantages.
To optimize operational decisions and control of flights, the two devices simultaneously transferred images to the pilot’s telenavigation tablet and to a Smartphone-type terminal at the head of control.
- From an operational point of view the effectiveness of the devices were determined in different contexts. The two devices showed infractions like: not respecting a STOP sign, not respecting the safety distance, not wearing a helmet (detected by one of the devices, not by the other); neither detected the use of mobile phones while driving. Both facilitated the accurate tracking of a fleeing criminal by road in order to orientate their persecution.
Although the use of drones for the purpose of persecuting those who threaten road safety is at an experimental phase, the French minister of the interior may intend to substitute the use of helicopters with drones in order to reduce costs. The French manufacturer Gruau proposed a fully equipped prototype to the gendarmerie: a Citroën Berlingo with enough space to transport a drone.
Before extending the use of these devices some technical problems must be remedied such as: the quality of the optics, the level accuracy to calculate speed, the risk of an accident if the device breaks down in flight, and a range of pending legal issues.
Further information is available on the following links. (in French)
Law nº 2016-1428 of 24 October 2016 corresponding to the enhancement of security when using civil drones https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/eli/loi/2016/10/24/DEVX1614320L/jo/texte
You can also consult two postings which have already been published on this blog:
 Data provided by the French Road Safety Observatory (ONISR)