Paris police want drones to watch over crowds

They're asking for hexacopters to spot terrorists from above.

Elliott Verdier/AFP/Getty Images

Paris' police force is understandably anxious about crowd security as of late, and it's turning to technology in a bid to track threats hiding in those groups. It's planning to buy hexacopter drones that would be used for close crowd surveillance. The machines will have to meet very specific criteria: they'll have to clearly spot a license plate from 50m (164ft) away, fly at altitudes of 100m (328ft), require no more than 5 days of training and use encrypted connections to avoid hacks. In essence, they have to serve as an extra set of eyes that law enforcement can use without a moment's hesitation.

The drones may go into service very soon. Paris is one of the key hosts for both the upcoming Euro 2016 football/soccer championship and the Tour de France, and the police will likely want whatever tools they can get to detect (and maybe even deter) criminals who might be lurking in the throngs of sports fans.

However, there are privacy concerns. While there's a law requiring that security drone operators let people know they're being watched, French rights groups are still worried that the proliferation of drones could lead to widespread surveillance. The rules open the door to exceptions for police when "public order" and security are at stake -- and when there's still a state of emergency, officers might be tempted to use those exceptions often. The police force will have to use drones judiciously if it wants to avoid making Parisians nervous.