“Measures are being taken to know what these drones are and neutralize them"

The French government has launched an investigation after state-owned power company Electricité de France (EDF) reported that small drones have been flown over seven of its nuclear plants.

The flights first started on October 5 at the Creys-Malville plant in southeastern France, with separate incidents peppered through the month. On October 19 drones were even reported flying over four plants hundreds of miles apart at the same time.

Activist group Greenpeace is suspected of being involved (a member of the organization notably paraglided over a plant in 2012) but has denied any knowledge of the flights.

The French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in an interview that “Measures are being taken to know what these drones are and neutralize them,” while a spokesman for the French air force said that all the aircraft involved were small and commercially available.

“Some were only a few dozen centimetres long with a very short range of several hundred metres at most,” an expert told Le Parisien. “So you’d need to be very close to the reactor. But others, and this is much more worryingly, were far bigger - perhaps two metres long so sufficiently big to carry an explosive charge.”

This follows similar warnings in the UK from the former head of GCHQ, who cautioned this month that small drones could be used to launch “chemical and biological attacks” during public events such as football games and rallies.

At the beginning of this week a report was also published by the UK Airprox Board of a drone flying “deliberately close” to a commercial passenger plane and the British Airline Pilots Association warned that the devices posed a “growing safety risk”.