Drones Over Champs-Elysées: Op-Ed by Former Parrot CMO, Nicolas Halftermeyer

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An amazing array of drones of all kinds were present at this year’s Bastille Day celebration in France.  The July 14th parade along the Champs-Elysées is a major highlight of the celebrations – and drones, drone defenses, and autonomous rovers were all there.

The following is a guest post by former Parrot CMO and high tech marketing influencer Nicolas Halftermeyer.

Originally published in French on FrenchWeb.  Published in English with permission of Nicolas Halftermeyer.

Drones and Start-Ups on the Champs-Elysées

On July 14th, exo-skeletons, radio-controlled and autonomous rovers, drones and a hoverboard opened the Bastille Day parade. These products were created by defence manufacturers such as Safran, but also by start-ups such as Droneshield or… Zapata Racing.

The terrestrial robots presented could almost claim the status of drones, as their autonomy seems to be evolving from radio control to automatic control. This is evidenced by the Franco-German rover, which is not guided by GPS but by on-board AI that analyzes the flow of its video camera to identify the crossing points of its route.

The star in flight was the Black Hornet, the 16- centimeter -long “nano drone” weighing less than 100 grams, which was invented by Norwegians in 2012.  It can travel a distance of up to one mile with a one-handed controller and video feedback. It is now in use in more than 20 armies. Bought by the American company FLIR, the specialist in thermal cameras, this nano drone transmits images in low resolution quality (VGA), stabilized in real time by software. Flying almost silently, it is very difficult to detect with the naked eye… and equipped since 2017 with a FLIR night vision camera.

Make way for the Scorpio pickup, a drone-loaded truck – it’s a modified common Toyota 4×4! The fixed-wing drone on the Scorpio that needs a ramp for take-off remains classic too. Today, the small Delair and sensefly drones no longer need ramps to be launched and could eventually replace this type of aerial platform.

With anti-UAV being a hot topic, 2 radio-electromagnetic rifles were demonstrated: one French, the other American. The impressive Nerod F5 and DroneGun Tactical rifles are similar at first sight, the first designed in France by MC2 Technologies, the second designed by Droneshield in Australia. They jam the GPS, the controls, the video transmission forcing most drones to land. But can they stop a pre-programmed flight? The target chosen was a DJI Mavic pro, a bestseller of Chinese origin that can be bought in any BestBuy store for $1200. Was it a subliminal political message?

The highlight of this futuristic animation, the Flyboard Air is not the result of advanced research by the French Defense Innovation Agency (the equivalent of the American DARPA). On the contrary, it is an evolution of the hydroflyer, a kind of consumer jetpack propelled by water flows, improved and redesigned by a French champion, Franky Zapata. For the Flyboard Air powered by kerosene – and not by electric batteries – its turbines provide impressive thrust in return for a noise probably excessive for use by special forces… Therefore it will be necessary to wait for a Flyboard Air 2 version before seeing it in the field. The Marseille based start-up Zapata Racing had been invited by Forum Innovation Défense and made its first flight on the Seine in November 2018. On this national holiday Francky carried a weapon, which made the demonstration very successful. Next is an investment from the innovation agency to help with 1,4 M€.

Finally, it should be mentioned that the drones invisible to the human eye are up there, very high in the sky. Like the Patroller developed by Safran. On this subject, read this excellent article (in French only) on the Drone Reaper – the successor of the Predator designed by General Atomics – which flew all day over Paris on July 14, 2018, piloted by the Belfort Drones team.


What we have not yet seen, and which may be on the menu for future editions of Frances’ national holiday, Bastille Day:

– A swarm of drones

– UAVs recently chosen by the Ministry of Defense, including the Spy’ranger in Thales or the X70 in Novadem, a start-up in Bordeaux

– The drones of the French Delair and Parrot

– UAVs adapted to police and gendarmerie missions

– UAVs providing supplies – this refers to ambushed soldiers for whom a cargo drone can accurately provide ammunition, smoke, first aid or food

– Marine drones designed by Naval Group in Brest. It will be necessary to consider a demonstration on the Seine….

PS: For Angela Merkel the drones are not a discovery, one of her meetings was peacefully interrupted by an AR. Drone in September 2013!


As the former CMO of Parrot, Nicolas Halftermeyer was instrumental in moving the company from startup phase to major name in the drone industry.  With over 20 years of experience in digital and high-tech marketing, Halftermeyer is an internationally recognized writer and presenter.


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