Mediterranean Sea: Frontex claims to have detected 13,000 refugees with drones

After in Malta, the EU border agency is now stationing a long-range drone on Crete. There is contradictory information on the surveillance technology on board.

According to its own figures, Frontex has detected at least 13,000 refugees in 300 cases with the help of long-range drones and reported them to the responsible coast guards. Since May last year, the EU border agency has stationed a Heron 1 from the Israeli arms company IAI in Malta for such missions. The drone is officially registered to the Maltese Air Force.

The contract for Frontex drones was awarded to the German branch of the Airbus Group in Bremen, which also flies four Heron 1s for the German armed forces in Mali. They are controlled from a mobile facility located at the international airport near the Maltese capital Valletta. Other Airbus technicians are responsible for maintenance and repairs there. „Mediterranean Sea: Frontex claims to have detected 13,000 refugees with drones“ weiterlesen

Heron TP in Israel: Germany now arms its drones

With the decision to buy 140 missiles, the German „drone debate“ comes to an end after eight years. All details about the weapons are top secret.

At the request of the government’s parliamentary groups, the Bundestag’s Budget and Defence Committees last week gave the green light to arm the Bundeswehr’s Heron TP drones. As an „interim solution“, they are to provide the air force with a new weapon system until the Eurodrone is fully developed in six years at the earliest. The missiles cost €152 million.

The decisions bring to an end an eight-year-long „drone debate“ in which initially only the Greens and the LEFT opposed the plans of the governing coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD). It began in 2014 with a public hearing of the Defence Committee on „legal and ethical aspects of armed drones“ in the Bundestag, followed in 2018 by the decision to procure „weaponisable“ Heron TP from Israel. „Heron TP in Israel: Germany now arms its drones“ weiterlesen

First type certificate: Israeli drone may fly domestic missions in future

Arms manufacturers want to market their long-range drones for interior ministries or agriculture, but to do so they must fly over populated areas. Market leaders are working feverishly to obtain the necessary permits.

For the first time, the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority has issued a permanent permit to fly a drone in civil airspace. The type certificate was granted to the defence company Elbit for its „Hermes Starliner“, as the company announced in a press release yesterday. According to a spokesperson, Elbit spent six years working on the certification, a process that involved „thousands of man hours, dozens of audits, laboratory tests, ground tests, intensive flight tests and thousands of documents“.

Until now, civilian and military flights of such large drones in Israel were restricted to reserved airspace. According to the aviation authority, the certification that has now taken place meets the applicable NATO standards for the integration of heavyweight drones. Accordingly, the drones used by the military can use civilian airspace – for training, for example – and ascend over populated areas. „First type certificate: Israeli drone may fly domestic missions in future“ weiterlesen

Takeover of German manufacturer: Rheinmetall re-enters the drone business

Equipping the German Army’s reconnaissance force with new LUNA drones seems to be secured, so a sale of the insolvent German manufacturer EMT to Israel is off the table. The Bundeswehr has also commissioned a study for kamikaze drones, such a system is also offered by Rheinmetall.

Defence contractor Rheinmetall is taking over major parts of insolvent drone manufacturer EMT from Penzberg in Bavaria. This was announced by the company’s Düsseldorf headquarters in a press release this week. The company, founded in 1978 by Hartmut Euer, a graduate engineer, built the LUNA tactical drone for the German armed forces. Originally, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems from Israel was supposed to buy up the company’s bankruptcy assets. This option is now off the table.

Rheinmetall intends to retain the four EMT sites in Bavaria and Schleswig-Holstein and integrate them and their 200 employees into the group structure. The group is thus returning to the drone business. Rheinmetall had developed the KZO („Kleinfluggerät Zielortung“) in the 1990s and sold 61 of these systems to the Army. In 2010, the company also won the contract to fly the Israeli HERON 1 for the Air Force, but gave this contract to EADS-Cassidian two years later. The jointly formed business was merged into the restructured Airbus Group in 2014. „Takeover of German manufacturer: Rheinmetall re-enters the drone business“ weiterlesen

New unmanned capabilities: When will the EU use drones for practical sea rescue?

Two leading drone manufacturers report readiness to equip their aircraft with life rafts. These can be dropped with pinpoint accuracy over a maritime emergency. But perhaps this would also encourage violations of the Geneva Refugee Convention.

The Portuguese company Tekever can now equip its drone „AR5“ with life rafts for eight people. The new capability has already been tested in several trials over the Atlantic, the manufacturer now shows this in a video.

With the help of on-board computers, the system calculates the optimal drop point. The rescue device is to be placed at a sufficient distance from the emergency at sea so that those affected are not put at additional risk. „New unmanned capabilities: When will the EU use drones for practical sea rescue?“ weiterlesen

Frontex closes surveillance gaps in the air and in space

High-flying drones are to reconnoitre the EU’s external borders from the stratosphere, a static zeppelin is already observing close to the ground. With interception systems in space, the EU border agency wants to locate and possibly tap satellite telephones in the Mediterranean. So far, the technology has only been installed in aircraft.

The European Union‘s border agency Frontex is expanding its „surveillance capability“ with high-flying platforms. In a call for tenders, systems are being sought for use in the stratosphere. At an altitude of 20 kilometres, they are to close the gap between the aircraft, drones and satellites already in use.

The systems sought include so-called high-altitude platforms (HAPS) or lighter-than-air (LTA) solutions, such as those currently being developed to series maturity by the European armament company Airbus with the glider „Zephyr“ or its French competitor Thales with the zeppelin-like „Stratobus“, which can last for months or even years. Suppliers of microsatellites, which can be launched into space extremely cheaply these days, can also apply.

The launch of HAPS has been driven by the EU Space Agency since 2017, and its market share at the time was estimated to be over €7 billion by 2024. Frontex could therefore be one of the first users of the new technology, as with the „Space Data Highway“. „Frontex closes surveillance gaps in the air and in space“ weiterlesen

Border drones (Part 1): Unmanned surveillance of the EU’s external borders by Frontex

Since 2009, the EU Border Agency Frontex has been hosting training events on drones and inviting manufacturers to regular demonstrations. There, border police from Schengen member states were presented market-available unmanned systems for the surveillance of land and maritime borders. The basis for this is the first Frontex Regulation, adopted in 2004, which contains the mandate to „follow up on the development of research relevant for the control and surveillance of external borders“. The agency’s remit therefore includes continuous exchange with „cross-sectorial partners“ in order to „transform operational requirements into innovative operational solutions“.

In the case of the introduction of these technologies, Frontex is to coordinate with European standardisation institutes as appropriate. In 2010, small drones were the initial focus in Finland. A year later, high-flying MALE-class aircraft were unveiled in the Greek port city of Aktio. Prior to this, Frontex had issued a call for the event to explore the integration of drones into the EU border surveillance system EUROSUR. Subsequently, aircraft such as the Israeli „Heron 1“, the American „Predator“, the French „Patroller“ as well as the „Euro Hawk“ (which at the time was in the procurement phase for the German Armed Forces as a spy drone) were presented in lectures. Some drones were demonstrated live; in the case of the Spanish offshoot of the French arms company Thales, the latter touted the suitability of its „Fulmar“ against irregular migration.

In its 2012 work programme, Frontex announced its intention to „identify more cost-efficient and operational effective solutions for aerial border surveillance in particular Unmanned Aircraft Systems“. Under the name „All Eyes“, the agency then wanted to identify cheap and effective solutions, including also so-called Optional Piloted Aerial Vehicles (OPV). Within nine months, an initial study on this was to be carried out, followed by „practical field tests and an evaluation“. The budget was 450,000 euros. „Border drones (Part 1): Unmanned surveillance of the EU’s external borders by Frontex“ weiterlesen

First test in Malta: Frontex drones approaching

A reconnaissance drone is to track down boats carrying refugees in the central Mediterranean Sea in the future, the main contractor is the Airbus Group. The range of the deployed „Heron 1“ also enables flights off the coasts of North Africa.

Frontex is apparently stationing its new drones in Malta. As the Times of Malta reports, the EU border agency carried out a first test flight there on Friday. The newspaper illustrates the report with photos of a „Heron 1“ on the runway of the international airport in Malta.

Frontex had tendered a contract for the procurement of large drones in 2019. The legal framework was the Frontex Regulation, renewed in 2016, which allows the agency to acquire or lease its own technical equipment, following a decision by the executive director. The vehicles, vessels, aircraft or surveillance equipment can then be used for joint operations, pilot projects or rapid interventions for border security purposes, according to Article 38. „First test in Malta: Frontex drones approaching“ weiterlesen

Italy and Frontex now monitor the Mediterranean Sea with large drones

Last week, the EU Border Agency decided on the multi-year deployment of large drones in the Mediterranean, now Italy is following suit. The contractors have already carried out tests for Frontex over the past two years.

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.

The contract was apparently awarded to the Italian arms company Leonardo. The firm is to provide up to 1,800 flight hours for an initial year. The drones will be stationed at the Sicilian airports of Trapani, Lampedusa or Ragusa. The Ministry of the Interior demands a deployment radius of about 550 kilometres. The contract has an initial term of one year and can be extended twice. „Italy and Frontex now monitor the Mediterranean Sea with large drones“ weiterlesen

No Israeli drones fly for Frontex after crash

Several Member States use EU services for unmanned maritime surveillance of different sizes. Operations for Frontex were stopped since January.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and Frontex will not use Israeli drones to monitor the external borders of the European Union until further notice. This is what the EU Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, writes in response to a written question by left-wing MEP Özlem Demirel. The background is the crash of a long-range drone of the Israeli armament company Elbit on January 8th of this year on Crete. The incident with the „Hermes 900“ occurred on the runway of Tympaki airport in Crete.

For the first time, the Commission is now giving details of the incident. According to the commission, it was a „hard landing“ after sensors of the drone had displayed „unexpected readings“. The aircraft then deviated from the runway, which, as Greek media reported, led to considerable damage. The Commission confirms that the fuselage, wings and sensors were damaged, but that „no casualties nor damage on the running way“ occurred. The „Hermes 900“ was apparently flown by pilots of the manufacturer Elbit. „No Israeli drones fly for Frontex after crash“ weiterlesen