Drone Industry in France: Growth and Innovation Are Winning the European Game of Drones

Drone Industry in France
  • One of the largest drone industries in the world – check out our overview of the ecosystem!

  • A plethora of organizations, companies, and institutions operate in the French drone market.

  • Find out some of the French drone innovations that are turning heads all over the world.

  • Drone applications are increasing as many industries implement drones in their daily operations.

The drone industry in France is thriving. The French government has been working to make the European country a hub for innovation and advanced drone applications in various fields, including agriculture and farming. France is the largest drone market in Europe. It’s second only to China and the USA in the world.

Some of the world’s biggest drone companies and manufacturers come from France. Parrot, Delta Drone, and Delair are just a few of them. 2018, for one, was an excellent year for French drone companies as they have entered the most strategic drone partnerships that year.

Interestingly enough, France has quite a rich history with drones or UAVs. French aviators Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier were the first to organize a public demonstration of an unmanned aircraft in Annonay in 1783. Far from today’s drones, the demonstration was about a hot-air balloon that didn’t need a person to pilot it. Even the drone photography we know and love today has its roots in the French ecosystem. Moreover, Gasper Felix Tournachon captured the first aerial photo from a hot-air balloon in France’s capital – Paris.

In this blog post, we will explore why drones are so popular in France; what’s driving growth; and who some of the major stakeholders are that are shaping this burgeoning industry.

Overview of the French Drone Industry: Statistics, Facts, and Predictions

As we mentioned, one fact that sums up France’s relationship with drones is the fact that it has the biggest European drone market.

To back that up, the turnover of recreational and professional drones manufacture is around 200 million euros (around USD 237 million). The sub-niches of the entire drone market are thriving, too. The surveillance drone market, for example, has a projected growth of rate of 70%.

While drones are increasingly getting popular in the French community, the share of French people that own a drone isn’t very big. In 2016, there were around 2,250 registered operators of commercial drones. Some report that today this number has climbed to more than 10,000 drone pilots. And most of them opt for a DJI drone rather than a Parrot-manufactured one.

Speaking of professional usage, people believe that sectors like disaster relief, agriculture and farming, and health can benefit from using drones extensively. Still, civilian drones are largely used in media and aerial photography in France.

Furthermore, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has reported that around 28 drone manufacturers exist in France. Thanks to the rapid development of this technology, trends, popularity, and innovation, today this number is much higher.

Source: Drone Travel

Why France’s Drone Market Has a High Value

According to a report by the company Involi, the value of the drone market in Europe in 2017 reached a whopping 197 million euros (more than USD 233 million). Projections are that by 2039, this number can increase to 3.9 billion euros (more than USD 4.6 billion).

What is France’s role in this? In 2017, Germany, the UK, and France together made up 57% of the European drone market, which is more than a half. This is largely due to a couple of factors.

Predominantly, it’s the size of each economy respectively. France and Germany are considered to be among the drivers of economic growth on the Old Continent. Then, there is the swift adoption of technology. France is famous for technological innovations which include drones. The drone laws and regulations play a significant part, too.

The regulation represents a vital aspect in the adoption of drone technology. Yes, France has its country-specific rules. The official body for regulating drones in the country is the French Civil Aviation Authority (FCAA). However, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has published common drone rules for entire Europe. As was stressed out by many experts, achieving harmonization in this field is crucial for drone usage.

Stakeholders Driving the French Drone Industry Forward

There are plenty of drone companies in France. The partnerships of these companies have helped position France as a leader in the industry by promoting innovation and strengthening ties between academia, business and government.

drone industry in France

Generally speaking, we can divide the French drone stakeholders into several categories: manufacturers, training centers, drone service providers, and corporations and institutions that integrate drones in their work.

Moreover, when we’re talking about drones and France, the first company that comes to mind is Parrot. Parrot has been recognized as a European leader in technology and electronics since the ’90s. 2010 was pivotal for both the company and the global drone industry. That year, Parrot introduced the AR Drone – a quadcopter that you can control remotely, considered by many as ahead of its time.

Besides drone manufacturing, a variety of drone companies exist in the French ecosystem. They have positioned themselves in multiple niches of the drone industry such as aerial imagery, proprietary drones, software solutions for remotely-controlling drones, drones for security applications, agricultural drones, and more. Further, some of them include Delta Drone, Delair, Elistair, Drone Volt, Diodon, Azur Drones, Aeomapper, UAVIA, Sterblue, Atechsys, Internest, and more.

Recently, France got its drone association in the French Drone Industry Association (ADIF). The first members of this association are some of the most well-known drone companies in the country including some of the ones we listed above like Delair, Aeromapper, Elistair, Diodon, Atechsys, and similar.

Even non-French companies have taken interest in investing in the drone industry in France. For example, the company Flyability, which is based in Switzerland – home to another booming drone market, has partnered with Foretec for reselling the drone Elios in France.

French Drone Innovations Making Waves

Certainly, the drones companies and startups we talked about are far from idle. The world has witnessed plenty of French drone innovations. For one, Parrot has announced their combination of AI technology and drones with the ANAFI Ai drone.

When it comes to harsh environments, some drones can’t easily hold up. Amphibious micro-drones like the ones manufactured by Diodon change that. They’re meant to be waterproof and rugged to withstand these conditions.

drone industry in France
Amphibious and waterproof micro-drone manufactured by Diodon | Source: Diodon

What’s more, there are efforts for carrying out drone swarm flights. These projects focus on getting drones to autonomously fly in swarms.

Even the French postal service is looking to drones to enhance its work. Moreover, the organization has made the headlines when it piloted an experiment with drone delivery services in the Alps. The possibility of drone deliveries has been one of the reasons why Airbus and the Hauts-de-France region teamed up, too.

Expanding Drone Applications

Drones are increasingly applied in many industries in the French economy. For one, agriculture is a highlight application. Several experiments with drones spraying pesticides on crops took place.

Also, drones have been engaged in so-called plot mapping. People use drones to identify which areas of the ground lack nitrogen which results in crops not growing as they should. So, drones can help with calculating the amount of nitrogen needed.

Experts see drones ‘lending a hand’ in livestock farming. Equipped with thermal or photographic cameras, they can monitor and surveil herds of animals on farms.

The French-based drone manufacturer Airinov had positive examples of using drone tech in precision farming. Its precision fertilizing practices have positively impacted the environment as well as the farmers’ financial situation.

As the coronavirus pandemic enforced lockdowns all over the world, the French authorities have relied on drones in these moments, too. Drones proved to be a useful tool to remind people of the movement restrictions, especially on the banks of the Seine.

Integrating Drones in Civil Air Traffic

With an increasing number of companies using drones for their daily operations as well as individuals who enjoy flying drones, efforts for integrating drones in the French civil air traffic have been more than justified.

drone industry in France
An overview of a U-Space | Source: Direction des Services de la navigation aérienne (DSNA)

Regulators and relevant stakeholders in the drone industry in France want to make the U-space safe and efficient for everyone, including manned and unmanned operations. With this, every drone has its own space in the sky. And all aircraft are integrated into an undivided sky in a manner that’s safe for everyone.

France Says ‘Oui’ to Drones

In France, drones are an integral part of the economy. They’re used in various applications and fields by companies as well as individuals. The drone industry has also been dynamic with plenty of innovations taking place all around the country. We’ve seen drone applications in industries such as farming and agriculture still in infancy. Thanks to the development of technologies like AI, advanced sensors, and more, we’ll surely see more drones in many fields.

France isn’t the only country with a growing drone industry. Check out our analyses of the drone industries in Canada, China, Australia, Switzerland, and more on The Drones World.