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French energy company invests in drones

Drone company Redbird gets $2.1 million in support from GDF Suez.

By Daniel J. Graeber

PARIS, April 1 (UPI) -- French energy company GDF Suez said Wednesday it was investing in Redbird, a civilian drone company, to monitor natural gas infrastructures.

The French company's venture capital subsidiary said it invested $2.1 million in Redbird to facilitate drone monitoring of natural gas infrastructure, survey topography and monitor "security for public institutions."

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GDF Suez said the investment builds on its portfolio of emerging technologies with high-resolution imagery needed for preventive maintenance.

Redbird President Emmanuel de Maistre said "exceptional support" from GDF Suez will help his company expand and develop more powerful drone technology.

"Since 2013, we are deeply convinced of the value of civilian drones for infrastructure networks, and this choice is relevant today," he said in a statement. "Despite technical and regulatory complexities, it is one of the most promising sectors."

Online retailer Amazon is exploring the use of civilian drones to facilitate product deliveries. Redbird, which works primarily in the French market, said French regulations on the use of civilian drones are ahead of its peers, including the United States.

Drones in France, the company said, are "strictly restricted" and used primarily in the industrial, agricultural and media sectors.

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