The SNCF is using the unmanned aircraft to survey railway lines to deter the theft of cables.
Its rail maintenance arm, the RFF, is testing small drones which could replace helicopter patrols along the lines. While helicopter patrols cost €1,000-€1,500 an hour, the price of a single drone is €3,000, with cheaper operating costs.
Cable thefts cost the SNCF €30 million a year in material costs: much more if the disruption to services is taken into account.
The company has requested the civil aviation authority (DGAC) to create air corridors so the aircraft can circulate freely.
Meanwhile, in the Landes, a prototype drone is being used to spot the nests of Asian hornets.
The devices can be piloted next to a nest and then a probe is used to inject a toxic powder inside which kills the wasps.
The advantage of the drone is that it is immune to attacks, and can fly higher than 30m, the maximum height of the ladders currently used by pest control agents.
Called the Joker, it is a modified version of a Wadudu drone, developed in Aquitaine.
A Gironde vineyard experimented with two drones this summer to survey the quality of its vines. The group Vignerons de Buzet said the trial had a number of implications for the care of vines and the use of pesticides and other chemicals.