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Italy signs ‘Euro-drone’ deal to challenge US

A European project to build a military drone by 2025 took wing on Monday as Germany, France and Italy signed a deal to start technical work and end their reliance on US- and Israeli-made models.

Italy signs 'Euro-drone' deal to challenge US
Britain, Italy and France currently use US-made Reaper drones. Photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson - USAF Photographic Archives

A European project to build a military drone by 2025 took wing on Monday as Germany, France and Italy signed a deal to start technical work and end their reliance on US- and Israeli-made models.

The scheme for a pilotless aircraft built by the three EU powers could be worth up to a billion euros ($1.2 billion) if it gets airborne, officials said after the deal was signed in Brussels.

“The goal of the Euro-drone is that we can decide by ourselves in Europe on what we use it, where we deploy the Euro-drone and how we use it,” German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said.

“This makes us, the Europeans, independent.”

For a decade, European powers have tried and failed to come up with a common drone project, meaning that Britain, Italy and France currently use US-made Reaper drones. Germany and France also use Israeli-built machines.

The three countries first agreed to cooperate on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in 2013.

The medium-altitude, long-endurance European drone will be designed for intelligence and reconnaissance missions and will be able to carry a “variety of payloads,” according to a statement after the signing.

Airbus, France's Dassault Aviation and Italy's Alenia Aermacchi are behind the proposal.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the Euro-drone deal was a “very important step for European cooperation.”

Other European countries including Spain and Poland could get involved at a later stage, officials said.

The two-year technical assessment will try to find common ground between Germany, France and Italy on operational needs, performance, timing and cost, they said.

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CRASH

Tourist fined after drone crashes in St Mark’s Square

A tourist was fined on Tuesday after his camera drone crashed into Venice’s iconic St Mark’s Square.

Tourist fined after drone crashes in St Mark’s Square
The tourist was fined after his camera drone crashed into Venice's Sat Mark's Square. Photo: Joe Shlabotnik

The man was trying to get aerial shots of the famous canal city, where drones are banned, but lost control of the mini aircraft, which happened to land close to a group of police officers patrolling the area.

Fortunately, the 2kg drone fell in an area where there were not many people and nobody was hurt.

The unmanned aircraft had been hovering over the Punta della Dogana, on the opposite side of St Mark’s Basin, before crossing the canal and crashing in St Mark’s Square.

Police were perplexed as to who owned the drone, until the tourist came forward on Tuesday and asked for it back.

The amount he was fined has not been reported, but violating Italian aviation rules is an offence potentially punishable with fines of up to €113,000.

Current guidelines say drones cannot be flown above 230 feet (70 metres) and must remain within a 490 foot (150 metre) radius of the pilot at all times.

Laws also state that drones must carry third-party insurance and that piloted aircraft must not come within 80 meters of private property. Crucially, they cannot be flown over populated areas or railways, factories and roads without obtaining prior permission from Enac.

In April, a French tourist was arrested in Rome after piloting his camera drone over the Colosseum.

Last year a pair of Israeli tourists were detained for flying their remote-controlled aircraft over the Vatican, while a Korean tourist in Milan found himself in hot water after slamming his drone into the roof of its iconic cathedral.  

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