PARIS (AP) — France will deploy anti-drone technology to interfere with and take control of any flying machines that violate no-fly zones over stadiums at the European Championship, part of unprecedented measures to secure Europe's biggest sports event since the Paris attacks in November.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Euro 2016 security chief Ziad Khoury said Tuesday that no-fly zones will be declared over all 10 stadiums as well as training grounds for the 24 teams at the June 10-July 10 tournament.
"We've noted the general proliferation of drone-usage in society," Khoury said in his Paris office. "So no-fly zones will be defined over every training ground and every stadium, and in most stadiums and for most matches anti-drone measures — which are quite innovative — will be deployed, working with the state, which will interfere with drones and take control of them if they are spotted."
French authorities have trained for the possibility of drones being used to disperse chemical weapons over crowds. A training exercise in April in Saint-Etienne, one of the 10 Euro 2016 cities, imagined that a drone carrying chemical agents had plunged into spectators at the Geoffroy Guichard Stadium, which will host three group matches in June and one game in the knockout round.
"When you prepare an event of this size, you must imagine all scenarios, even the most unlikely," Khoury said.
He said authorities have no specific intelligence to indicate that drones are a threat, but are preparing for all eventualities. The anti-drone measures to be deployed by the French air force and police "aren't necessarily infallible, because the technology is new and the drone phenomenon is recent. Let's say it is a dissuasive measure that didn't exist at previous sports events," he said.
"The idea is not to destroy the drones, because there could be collateral damage, notably if they crashed into the public. It is to prevent them from flying over the stadiums and perhaps to arrest their pilots," Khoury said.
Expanded security perimeters around stadiums should keep any drone pilots at a considerable distance, he said.
"So the risk for matches should be limited. For other sites, it's a different matter," Khoury said.
"With drones, it could be curiosity. It could be fans. It could be something more malicious," he said. "Nothing has been identified in particular. It's simply that we are working on all hypotheses so we could respond."