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The French MoD has issued a request for information seeking a drone payload to detect telecommunication transmitters, identify and map their locations.

Significantly, the Request For Information is only open to only European suppliers that leaves out U.S. or Israeli bidders. The move is in keeping with French policy of keeping intellectual property within the European Union.

France’s Defense Innovation Agency is seeking an electronic support payload that can be integrated into drones with a maximum take-off mass of less than 25kg (or 55 pounds) under its Sauron project. The drone with the payload must be capable of detecting, locating, tracking, identifying and jamming radio transmitters operating at between 30 and 6,000 megahertz. It must work unitarily and autonomously, instead of in a more typical swarm. Operators must have the ability to reprogram the payload during a mission. It should be of a size compatible to be carried on a fixed of a rotary wing drone, weigh less than 5kg and have energy consumption of less than 50W.

A budget of € 400,000 ($473,000) has been set aside for the project.

The agency cites a January 2021 deadline for submissions, and a seven-month window for research and development leading to demonstrations.

In the RFI, it emphasises that the project “must not involve any subcontractor outside the European Union.

We, some countries more than others, gave up on our strategic independence by depending too much on American weapons systems,” French President Emmanuel Macron said this September. “We cannot accept to live in a bipolar world made up of the U.S. and China.”

Formally established in December 2017, the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) framework is intended to deepen defense cooperation among the 25 participating member states. The industrial ‘Fortress Europe’ agreement seeks to help fund, develop and deploy armed forces together and make the EU’s defence sector more flexible and independent of the U.S. So far, the member states have reportedly agreed to develop 47 joint military projects including a new patrol vessel, an unmanned anti-submarine system, an electronic jamming weapon for aircraft, technology to track ballistic missiles and a system to insert drones under the Single European Sky system.

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