France has opted for a low-cost, off-the-shelf UAV, the Crecerelle. The Crecerelle has proven to be attractive to export customers as well, serving as the basis for the new Dutch Sperwer, and for a new Swedish program. France is focusing on a machine like the Crécerelle, that is fairly big and meets a specific need in contact zones. The equipment is already operational in France and could be further developed. Crécerelle is an example of a project that grew rapidly. The efficiency of the device is good enough so that the French Army can assess the system and see how it can be used. The French are working on devices, such as the Vigilant, that are low-cost and flexible, that do not require any special terrain, but also machines like the Crécerelle, that require bigger operating facilities but that also have greater capabilities.
The HALE (High Altitude, Long Endurance) belongs to a more strategic field. They are bigger and more sophisticated. As a result, more compromises are required. Sagem has signed an agreement with General Atomics to market the HALE. However, engineering a HALE requires a decision at a whole other level. French authorities are waiting to see what will happen with the American's Global Hawk before making a decision.
Although the more or less official term for vehicles of this type is UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), a French word [from Greek roots] for a plane without a pilot has been coined - "gnopter". The word comes from the Greek words: "gnosis" meaning knowledge, "gnome" meaning intelligence and "pteron" meaning wing. This word sums up the machine's mission. The gnopter is a device that can increase information on, or knowledge of a given location. The machines can also be adjusted in real-time, to fulfill a given mission.
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