food / travel

The Drones Of Bordeaux: Higher Tech Makes Finer Wine

"Drones are more precise, they don’t damage the vines like tractors do, and they have more flexibility"
"Drones are more precise, they don’t damage the vines like tractors do, and they have more flexibility"
Claudia Courtois

BORDEAUX — Jeanne Lacombe, who runs four vineyards owned by wine magnate Bernard Magrez in France’s Médoc region, is used to waiting: for the grapes to ripen, for wines to age — and now, for her drone.

It is due this month, and will come equipped with three carbon fiber feet, six propellers and a sensory camcorder hanging in the middle.

The first tests took place in the wine magnate’s vineyards in the south of France — he has almost 40 around the world. Magrez decided to buy the small aircraft — “50,000 euros, the price of a tractor,” Lacombe says, putting things into perspective — and train two of his employees, including this technical manager, who earned herself a microlight certificate.

Magrez isn’t the first to use a drone in a vineyard — the Château Lafon-Rochet in Saint-Estèphe has been using one since last spring — but he is the first to own one in Europe. Until now, these pilotless aircrafts were solely used for visual communication between the châteaux.

Creating a network

Why use a technology like this when there already are observations by satellites and helicopters, or sensors placed on tractors? “Drones are more precise, they don’t damage the vines like tractors do, and they have more flexibility — they can be used anytime, unlike satellites,’ explains the manager of the Médoc vineyards. “In the end, this will help us cultivate our vineyards even more carefully because we will have a more precise knowledge, plot by plot.”

Lacombe says the vineyards will be more accurate in combating pests and vine diseases, as well as defining the ripeness of the grapes, which is all central to the final quality of the wines.

In the nearby region of Aquitaine there is an entire industry being built around drones. Even in 2010, in the early days of drones, a “cluster” called Aetos was launched thanks to the regional council of Aquitaine and aircraft manufacturer Thales.

Trang Pham, regional development manager for Thales and head of Aetos, has spent the past three years creating “a network of companies, research laboratories and universities across the entire southwest of France, to strengthen this sector and develop new markets.”

Bordeaux’s assets

The region, especially around Bordeaux, has many assets: an industrial fabric specializing in military and civilian aircrafts (with companies like Thales, Dassault, Safran and EADS/Airbus), academic courses to give specific training, “dronists” (drone manufacturers) and several flight testing camps.

They are still marginal, but these small flying objects may soon become central to many different industries. “For all the monotonous, dangerous and inaccessible operations in high-risk environments, drones have a future,” says David Carcenat, the sales manager of Fly-n-Sense, a drone manufacturer founded in 2010 and based just across the road from Mérignac airport in Bordeaux.

Aetos sponsors several projects that have important economic potential for the region. “Vitidrones,” for instance, supported by the rival cluster Inno’vin, has been working for the past year on an automatic aircraft that will allow the remote sensing of the vines’ strength. Trials and marketing are set to take place this year.

“In a few years, if the sensors exist, we will work on the waterways and the parasitic diseases of the vines,” explains head of Inno’vin, Gilles Brianceau.

What about wildfires and pollution?

In the Landes region, firemen use a drone — soon they will have a second one — to estimate the size of wildfires in real time. Drone manufacturer Fly-n-Sense is working with a highway company on a prototype that will be able to quickly determine the extent of resulting traffic jams after accidents.

A Swiss company has asked them to work on an aircraft capable of measuring air pollution. It is also studying a building renovation program: the drone has a scanner that sweeps remnants of a building and, coupled with a renovation software program, the original building appears.

“Drones are a real support tool,” Trang Pham says. “Now, 2014 will be the year of the commercial achievement of various different trials.” And the Aquitaine region will certainly be able to toast to that.

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Art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 你好*

Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.

[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]


Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine

The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:

Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos


• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.

• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.

• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.

• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.

• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.

• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.


"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.


$1.01 trillion

After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.


What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia

While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.

👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.

⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.

➡️


"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."

— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."


An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!

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