27 October 2020
Large drones are heading to the skies above the Mediterranean, with both Italy and EU border agency Frontex recently agreeing multi-million euro contracts with private companies. The drones will be used for border surveillance, and in particular are like to assist with pull-backs to North Arican states.
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Italy and Frontex now monitor the Mediterranean Sea with large drones (Matthias Monroy, link):
"The Italian Ministry of the Interior is providing €7.2 million for the operation of drones in the central Mediterranean. The police and the financial police, who is also responsible for border security, will use the unmanned aerial vehicles by day and night against irregular migration from countries such as Libya and Tunisia. The EU Commission is funding 50% of the procurement with money from the Internal Security Fund.
After several pilot projects, Frontex also decided last week on the long-term deployment of drones in the Mediterranean. According to the arms manufacturer Airbus in Bremen, a tendered contract worth 50 million euros will be awarded to the company, which will charter an Israeli „Heron 1“ from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Both companies had tested a „Heron 1“ on Crete for EU border surveillance in parallel with the Frontex tests with the „Falco“ in Sicily.
It is still unclear where the stationing of the now decided Frontex drones will take place, the tender refers to Greece, Italy or Malta. Frontex, like the Italian Ministry of the Interior, defines the operational radius as 500 kilometres, and the drone can remain in the air for more than 24 hours. Frontex also intends to transmit the information obtained during the missions to the Libyan coast guard.
According to „Tenders Electronic Daily“, the scoreboard for public procurement in Europe, the Israeli company Elbit has also been awarded a contract for a Frontex drone worth €50 million. This is likely to be the „Hermes 900“ model whose services Frontex had requested from the EU Maritime Safety Agency."
Airbus' press release (link) makes clear how drone technology, originally developed for military use, is increasingly being adopted for civil purposes (emphasis added):
"Numerous trials were successfully held over the past years to confirm and highlight the benefits of unmanned aerial systems in terms of precise and long endurance surveillance. The maritime Heron is being used amongst others by the Israeli navy as its key patrolling tool, successfully performing reconnaissance and security assignments since many years.
Mike Hoofdmann, CEO of ADAS underlined that this contract for long endurance maritime surveillance for Frontex marks a new milestone for the company to extend its successful unmanned operational services for military customers also to civil stakeholders such as Frontex and eventually other agencies. “This contract gives us the opportunity to prove our performance on a European level. We as Airbus together with our partner IAI make an essential commitment to the monitoring and security of European external border and thus contribute to the stability in Europe”, adds Hoofdmann."
For detailed background information on the development and use of drones by EU institutions and agencies, see: Eurodrones, Inc. (February 2014)
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