Military reconnaissance: German drones in use in Ukraine

The German Ministry of Defence is supplying a total of 43 unarmed aerial drones to its partner in Ukraine, as well as various technology to defend against such systems. In addition, there is talk of up to 20 naval drones.

The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine has received a first delivery of reconnaissance drones from Germany. They come from the company Quantum Systems, which has its headquarters in Gilching near Munich. According to a press release, some of the drones are already in use. The handover of further aircraft is said to be „in preparation and processing stage“.

Unmanned systems are playing an increasingly important role in the Ukraine war. Armed drones from Turkey have caused major losses for the Russian military; due to the lack of its own assets, the government in Moscow is now relying on imports from Iran. Both sides also use so-called kamikaze drones, which circle above the enemy with a warhead and swoop down on the target when the opportunity is right. „Military reconnaissance: German drones in use in Ukraine“ weiterlesen

Secret aerial surveillance: What does an hour’s flight with a Frontex drone cost?

With a new regulation, the EU border agency has set up its own aerial surveillance with aircraft. With the arrival of drones, migration control with the „Multipurpose Aerial Surveillance“ has become much more effective, but presumably also more expensive.

For more than a year, the EU border agency has stationed an Israeli Heron 1 long-range drone in Malta, and another drone now patrols the airspace around the Greek island of Crete. Frontex, however, does not want to disclose how much money a flight hour costs. Thus, it cannot be compared whether the drones are more expensive than manned aircraft on behalf of Frontex, as suspected.

With a new regulation, Frontex received permission in 2016 to purchase its own equipment. Immediately, the agency began leasing charter aircraft for aerial surveillance as part of a „Multipurpose Aerial Surveillance“ (MAS). This made Frontex independent of borrowing planes and helicopters, which previously had to be requested from EU Member States in the framework of Agency missions. „Secret aerial surveillance: What does an hour’s flight with a Frontex drone cost?“ weiterlesen

Facial recognition and mobility tracking: UK is monitoring foreign criminals with smartwatches

Five times a day, people awaiting trial or deportation can be prompted by an app to scan their face. Together with location data, the information will be stored by the prison administration for up to six years.

The UK Ministry of Justice wants to track convicted criminals with the help of detachable smartwatches. This is reported by the Guardian, citing plans by the prison administration. The practice would only apply to foreign national offenders (FNOs) awaiting trial or deportation. It would also enforce curfews and bans on entering certain regions.

Alternatively, the wearing of an electronic ankle bracelet could be ordered. With both systems, the Ministry of Justice plans to monitor the behaviour of about 21,400 people over the next three years, which is about 6,000 more than in March 2022. If they violate bail conditions, the prison administration will inform the Ministry of the Interior for further action. „Facial recognition and mobility tracking: UK is monitoring foreign criminals with smartwatches“ weiterlesen

Resignations over „Predator“ spyware scandal in Greece

The Greek secret service spied on at least one journalist, today its head resigned. In addition, the prime minister’s secretary-general quit his post. The affair reaches the EU level after a current MEP was also spied on.

The Greek wiretapping affair involving the „Predator“ spy programme is widening. According to media reports, Grigoris Dimitriadis, the Secretary General of the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, resigned today. Today, his office writes that the head of the secret service, Panagiotis Kontoleon, has also submitted his resignation.

The association „Reporters United“ had previously reported how a network of companies with the participation of Dimitriadis was making money from state operations of the spyware. Intellexa, the company that distributes „Predator“ in Greece, is part of this. The revelation is also explosive because the two are relatives: The Secretary General is the nephew of the Prime Minister, who in turn is directly responsible for the secret service as a user of „Predator“. „Resignations over „Predator“ spyware scandal in Greece“ weiterlesen

German Investigations dropped: Indymedia platform was not a criminal association

The German linksunten.indymedia, founded in 2008, was banned under the Associations Act, and the entire technical infrastructure and funds of a left-wing center were confiscated. Seized storage devices apparently could not be decrypted.

Almost five years after the ban of linksunten.indymedia, the German public prosecutor Manuel Graulich has closed a preliminary investigation for the formation of a criminal organization (§ 129 of the German Code of Criminal Procedure), writes Antifa Freiburg in a post on its website. Accordingly, the decision was already made on July 12. The Freiburg lawyer of those affected, Angela Furmaniak, confirmed the information.

On August 25, 2017, and thus shortly before the Bundestag elections, the then Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) had announced the ban and declared the Internet platform to be an „association“. This meant that the law on associations could be applied, which, compared to the Telemedia Act, has significantly fewer requirements for a ban. The lawyers of those affected call this a „legal trick“. „German Investigations dropped: Indymedia platform was not a criminal association“ weiterlesen

Airbus‘ „Zephyr“: Stratospheric drone beats own record

Airbus‘ unmanned glider has been flying for 42 days without landing; no aircraft has been in the air without refueling for such a long time. As a flying Internet node, the drone could replace 250 cell towers. But there is interest mainly from the military.

The „Zephyr“ solar glider breaks more records during a test flight. Launched on June 15, the drone has now been in the air for 42 days, far surpassing the mark of 26 days set in 2018. As then, the test is taking place over a U.S. Army compound in Yuma, the Arizona city considered the sunniest in the world. In theory, the unmanned aircraft can fly continuously for months without maintenance.

With the tests, Airbus and the military want to test the durability of the drone, its electric motors  and its satellite communications. The flights involve intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance units from the military and various combat commands.

One-third of the weight for batteries

The „Zephyr,“ with its skeletal fuselage, is made of lightweight carbon fiber composites. The wings, with a span of 25 meters, are made of solar cells; Airbus therefore describes the flights as CO2-neutral.

The drone flies in the stratosphere, which refers to altitudes above 15 kilometers of thin air. There, aircraft are above atmospheric weather and conventional air traffic.

The „Zephyr“ is considered the first stratospheric drone of its kind and belongs to the class of so-called High-Altitude Pseudo-Satellites (HAPS). Other defense companies such as Thales rely instead on zeppelin-like systems for this purpose.

First flight in international airspace

The current tests are taking place primarily in airspace over the United States, and the route can be tracked via websites such as Flightradar24. According to the report, the autopilot uses its route to describe words like „Hello“ or „Army“ or even symbols like a hand.

In early July, the drone also flew over the Mexican Gulf to Belize and back to Arizona. This was reportedly the first time it had operated in international airspace and over water.

The current flight is with a „Zephyr 8,“ which is slightly larger than the previous version. In total, the system weighs about 75 kilograms, of which about a third is accounted for by the batteries, which are charged during daylight hours to enable overnight flight. The payload is said to be five kilograms, compared with just half that for the „Zephyr 7.“

For military, border troops and „smart cities“

Airbus is promoting the drone for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes by the military, where the drone could accompany convoys or intercept enemy communications. Other uses would be environmental monitoring or integration into „smart cities.“ In a promotional film, Airbus also shows its use for border surveillance, a purpose that the EU border agency Frontex is also currently investigating.

After an eight hours launch and ascent into the stratosphere, the „Zephyr“ is said to be able to navigate to the desired location, which can be thousands of kilometers away. With high-resolution cameras on board, an area of 20 by 30 kilometers can be observed. It is also possible to equip it with radar, lidar and infrared technologies, as well as hyperspectral sensors.

In addition, the „Zephyr“ should be able to be used as a relay to transmit signals between other aircraft and ground stations when they are separated without line of sight. According to Airbus, these „connectivity services“ would be an alternative and complement to terrestrial and satellite-based solutions.

Range of 250 cell towers

Also under discussion is its use as a flying Internet node. The „Zephyr“ could connect remote areas to the Internet or extend the reach of existing networks. The system’s coverage is equivalent to 250 cell towers, says Airbus.

A second flight of a „Zephyr“ is planned for the coming weeks, this time over the Pacific Ocean. The test is primarily military in nature and is intended to investigate the ability to carry a U.S. Army-designed payload over multiple command posts.

Airbus took over development of the „Zephyr“ from the U.K.-based company QinetiQ in 2013. Among the first customers was the U.K. Ministry of Defense, which has since ordered several systems.

Tests of the unmanned solar glider last year (Airbus).

Following airplanes and drones: Frontex wants helicopters for border surveillance

The EU border agency wants to repeat a failed tender to procure rotary-wing aircraft. These could be used in areas where there is a lack of runways. The scenarios fit a Greek border river where many dead bodies wash up.

The European border agency Frontex is sticking to plans to add helicopters to its fleet of aircraft. A failed tender is to be made up this year, and procurement could then take place next year. This is what the new Frontex director Aija Kalnaja writes in her answer to a parliamentary question by MEP Özlem Demirel. Accordingly, the rotorcraft are to fly in operational areas where there is a lack of suitable landing sites for aircraft and drones.

Frontex had already targeted a three-million-euro framework contract for helicopter services across Europe two years ago. The helicopters were part of a tender for long- and medium-range flights with manned aircraft, on which Frontex planned to spend another €100 million. They were to be used in land and sea operations, Frontex wrote, „even if they are more oriented on the land domain.“ „Following airplanes and drones: Frontex wants helicopters for border surveillance“ weiterlesen

Secret border surveillance: Italy drastically restricts freedom of information

Italian media no longer receive information about their country’s cooperation with the Libyan coast guard. Whether many millions of euros for equipment have been wasted there can now hardly be clarified. It also makes the EU border agency Frontex more opaque.

The Italian government has drastically restricted the right of access to administrative documents. In the future, information on cross-border security cooperation is to be kept secret from the public. A corresponding decree restricting freedom of information was signed by Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese as early as mid-March 2022, reports the newspaper Altreconomia. The reason given is the threat to national security or defense.

Particularly affected is the intergovernmental „border and immigration management“ with neighboring countries. For example, cooperation agreements and technical agreements between the military and police will no longer be issued. Separately mentioned in the decree is information on „problems in border areas.“ „Secret border surveillance: Italy drastically restricts freedom of information“ weiterlesen

Council and Parliament negotiations: EU laws on „E-Evidence“ reportedly on the home straight

Internet service providers are to facilitate the work of law enforcement agencies with orders to preserve and hand over their users‘ data. With an additional directive, companies must designate legal representation and establish points of contact.

Negotiations on the EU proposals on „electronic evidence“ („e-evidence“) could be concluded this year. This is according to a note from the then French Presidency of the Council distributed to delegations of EU member states on June 16. The British civil rights organization Statewatch, which published the document, therefore speaks of an „end game“.

According to France, the second political trialogue between the Council and Parliament on June 14 was a „turning point.“ The two legislative bodies disagreed mainly on the question of whether a state may oppose another country’s order to hand over „electronic evidence“. „Council and Parliament negotiations: EU laws on „E-Evidence“ reportedly on the home straight“ weiterlesen

Data Protection Commissioner’s audit: Germany’s largest police database contains many illicit records

After ten years, the German Federal Data Protection Commissioner has again inspected the INPOL-Z file at the Federal Criminal Police. There are still considerable problems there; even administrative offenses can lead to storage. In some cases, the auditor waived a formal complaint because the police wanted to delete the data immediately.

For all German federal and state police authorities, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in Wiesbaden operates the central INPOL-Z information system. It consists of various files, including the Criminal File Index or Police Records (ED). Many millions of facial images and fingerprints of suspects and asylum seekers are stored there. This makes it the largest police database in the Federal Republic. Customs can also access it.

However, a lot of personal data is stored here illegally. The then Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (BfDI), Peter Schaar, had already pointed this out in 2011 after an audit visit to the BKA. Ten years later, his successor Ulrich Kelber has once again signed up for a „consultation and inspection visit“ in Wiesbaden to check whether the „recommendations“ made at the time have been implemented. „Data Protection Commissioner’s audit: Germany’s largest police database contains many illicit records“ weiterlesen