Assistance over Ukraine war: Border police in Moldova receive German drones

The delivery to the government in Chişinău is being financed by Germany. The project is headed by an ousted Berlin police chief.

The German government is equipping Moldova with drones for border security. For this purpose, the border police will initially receive five unmanned aerial vehicles from the company Germandrones starting in the summer. Training of border guards to control and operate the sensor technology has already begun with a training drone, the manufacturer reported in a press release.

According to Germandrones, former Berlin Federal Police chief and later Berlin police president Klaus Kandt is acting as project coordinator. Kandt had to vacate his post in the capital in 2018 due to criticism of his leadership style and several scandals.

Fixed-wing aircraft with swiveling propellers

The Songbird 150 Surveillance Edition aircraft are fixed-wing aircraft, but they can take off and land vertically with swiveling propellers. This puts them in the VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) drone class. With a maximum take-off weight of 14 kilograms, they have a comparatively high payload of over six kilograms.

Several dozen drones with such capabilities are also to be delivered to the government of Ukraine by Quantum, a company likewise based in Germany. They are to take over surveillance tasks there as a defense against Russian attacks.

According to Germandrones, the Songbird 150 flies up to 90 kilometers. Control via satellite is apparently not possible. For use on the border with Ukraine, the drones carry optical sensor technology with 40x optical magnification and a thermal imaging camera on board. Equipping them with a laser-based LIDAR device for object detection is also now possible, according to the manufacturer.

„Current crisis always in view“

Equipping the government in Chişinău with German unmanned aircraft was reportedly discussed at the international conference to establish a „support platform“ for Moldova in early April, according to the manufacturer. The conference, chaired by the German Foreign Office, was held in Berlin and co-chaired by Germany, France and Romania.

Whether the decision to deliver the drones was also made in Berlin, however, remains open. The manufacturer is also not disclosing how much money the German government is spending on it. However, Germandrones, a CONDOR Solutions company, accompanied the German delegation to the conference „with its engineers and technical expertise“ and participated in the negotiations in Moldova.

In doing so, he said, the participants „always kept in mind the current crisis and the related challenges that Moldova is currently facing.“

„Detection of criminal activities“

The five drones are intended to make it possible to quickly reach any location on Moldova’s borders from multiple locations with a surveillance device. This should contribute to a higher response and intervention capability thus „significantly to the detection of criminal activities,“ the head of the border police, Rosian Vasiloi, is quoted as saying.

It remains unclear which violations are expected at the border. What is probably meant is the control of the entry of many hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who have fled Russian attacks to Moldova.

It is also possible that Moldova wants to prevent irregular crossings of the border. After Ukraine banned men fit for war from leaving the country, many conscientious objectors are trying to escape undetected to neighboring countries.

Small drones for Frontex

Frontex is also supporting Moldova with units of its border force. To this end, former director Fabrice Leggeri had negotiated a status agreement with the government in Chişinău. Moldova’s prime minister had previously signed a law with the minister of the interior and the minister of justice allowing the deployment of armed foreign police on the republic’s state border.

However, deployments by the EU border agency in the self-proclaimed breakaway republic of Transnistria, where Russia has stationed military forces, are ruled out. It is not known what equipment Frontex will bring to Moldova. As for unmanned aircraft, so far the agency only flies large drones in the Mediterranean.

Most recently, however, Frontex had also put out to tender a framework contract for vertical-launch quadrocopters. The contract, worth €2 million, was awarded to the Polish company NaviGate, which specializes in camera technology. The manufacturer mounts the sensor technology on drones made by the Chinese group DJI, which also supplies blue-light organizations with its Matrice model.

Image: The Songbird 150 in Moldova (Border Police Republic of Moldova).

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.