Zagazola - FACT-CHECK: Is French Government Using ‘Drone Bird’ to Spy on Franco-Phone and West African  Countries?

FACT-CHECK: Is French Government Using ‘Drone Bird’ to Spy on Franco-Phone and West African  Countries?

CLAIM: A widely circulated WhatsApp message claims that the French government has created a novel ‘drone bird’ technology to spy on its former colonies and West African nations, following the recent coup in Niger.

FULL-TEXT: The text that accompanied the footage of the ‘drone bird’ flapping its wings reads, “This 👆 is not a bird, if you see it anywhere around you, PLEASE be kind enough to shoot it down by *”ALL”* means possible and available to you… 

“They were chiefly developed by the French, to spy on francophone countries and our neighbors of West African countries after the coup in Niger. But now currently adopted by the terrorists around the sub-saharan regions of Africa [sic].

“So be at alert, because it’s been spotted around some villages in Minna (Niger State), Kaduna, Plateau and Bauchi remote areas. It is alleged to be sent to fly over, scan and see into the villages where  population is substantial, so that Boko Haram, Bandits or kidnappers will strike and kill and maim [sic].

Meanwhile, the French army had used birds of prey in 2017 to take down drones to protect its air bases and secure public airspace in case a drone posed a threat.

France 24 published, “Eagles were first used by the Dutch police force to intercept drones used by criminals and terrorists. Inspired by this success, the French military began training eagles for military programmes.

“A drone means food for these birds,” Gerald Machoukow, the military base’s falconer, told FRANCE 24’s Fanny Allard. 

“Now they automatically go after them,” he said.

In 2013, Egyptian authorities detained a bird on suspicion of spying after spotting an electronic device tied to its leg. 

However, they subsequently found that the apparatus was a wildlife tracker used by French scientists to study the movement of migrating birds.

VERIFICATION: Through Invid Verifier, PRNigeria dissected the footage, conducting a reverse image search on the bird-drone.

The findings revealed that the video originated from a TikTok user who captioned it, ‘The bird you see in the future may just be a toy.’ 

PRNigeria observes that the TikTok post was eventually removed, indicating its unavailability after multiple attempts to watch it.

The flying bird is a radio-controlled pterodactyl, developed by Ohio-based PaulG Toys, that actually flies by flapping its wings and emits a terrifyingly realistic pterodactyl screech. Its eyes light up red when it’s powered up, making it even more menacing. 

The Flying Pterodactyl’s battery works for 15 to 20 minutes of flight time, and can be swapped for a fully-charged optional extra battery on the spot. The bird has an operational range of 500 meters. If and when it crashes upon the death of its battery, its wing and leg joints pop off so they don’t get irreversibly damaged.

CONCLUSION: Based on the facts gathered by PRNigeria, there is no substantive evidence to confirm the claim that the French government invented a novel technology ‘drone bird’ to spy on their former colonies and West African countries.

The video of the bird-drone, known as ‘Flying Pterodactyl’ is a toy produced for entertainment and amusement.

PRNigeria, therefore, concludes that the claim that the French government had developed a bird-drone technology to spy on its former colonies and West African countries is Misleading.