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

Greece: EU Commission upgrades border surveillance – and criticises it at the same time

The Greek border police are using a sound cannon and drones on a new border fence, and the EU Commission expresses its „concern“ about this. However, it is itself funding several similar research projects, including a semi-autonomous drone with stealth features for „effective surveillance of borders and migration flows“

On Monday, the Associated Press (AP) news agency had reported that police in Greece plan to deploy a long-range sound cannon at the external border with Turkey in the future. The device, mounted on a police tank, makes a deafening noise with the volume of a jet engine. It is part of a system of steel walls that is being installed and tested along with drones on the 200-kilometre border with Turkey for migration defence. The vehicle, made by the Canadian manufacturer Streit, comes from a series of seized „Typhoons“ that were to be illegally exported to Libya via Dubai.

After the AP report about the sound cannons went viral, Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz had clarified that it was not an EU project. „Greece: EU Commission upgrades border surveillance – and criticises it at the same time“ weiterlesen

Erdoğan son-in-law wants to equip world’s first drone carrier

After Turkey’s exclusion from the F35 programme, the fighter jets on the aircraft carrier „Anadolu“ could be replaced by armed drones.

Turkey could be the first country in the world to have an aircraft carrier with combat drones. The ship in question is the „TCG Anadolu“, which is to be launched next year. Ideas for this have been around for a while. Now Selçuk Bayraktar, founder of the drone company Baykar Defence and later son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has given details for the first time in an online event of the Aerospace Summit of Turkey’s Gebze University. According to this, the ship could be equipped with a successor version of the well-known drone „Bayraktar TB2“.

The „Anadolu“ is a copy of the Spanish „Juan Carlos“, which with a length of 232 metres and a displacement of around 27,000 tonnes is one of the lightweight aircraft carriers. The contract for the construction was awarded to a consortium of the manufacturer Navantia and the Turkish company Sedef, in whose shipyard the ship is currently being built under licence. Turkey thus becomes the fourth maritime power in the Mediterranean with an aircraft carrier after France, Italy and Spain. „Erdoğan son-in-law wants to equip world’s first drone carrier“ 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

Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe

The agencies EMSA and Frontex have spent more than €300 million on drone services since 2016. The Mediterranean in particular is becoming a testing track for further projects.

According to the study „Eurodrones Inc.“ presented by Ben Hayes, Chris Jones and Eric Töpfer for Statewatch seven years ago, the European Commission had already spent over €315 million at that time to investigate the use of drones for border surveillance. These efforts focused on capabilities of member states and their national contact centres for EUROSUR. The border surveillance system, managed by Frontex in Warsaw, became operational in 2014 – initially only in some EU Member States.

The Statewatch study also documented in detail the investments made by the Defence Agency (EDA) in European drone research up to 2014. More than €190 million in funding for drones on land, at sea and in the air has flowed since the EU military agency was founded. 39 projects researched technologies or standards to make the unmanned systems usable for civilian and military purposes. „Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe“ weiterlesen

The Turkish Drone War over Nagorno-Karabakh: Gamechanger for more unmanned armament?

Video lecture 11 March at 7 pm (CET)

The lecture in English was simultaneously translated into German. See it on YouTube in original language.

The war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in autumn 2020 is considered the first inter-state conflict won through the use of armed drones. Turkey supported Azerbaijan’s fighting with its „Bayraktar TB2“. Compared to the drones of the previous market leaders from the USA and Israel, these are smaller and considerably cheaper. Germany supplied technology for the production of ammunition. The deployment was preceded by attacks in Syria, Kurdistan and Libya.

After the USA, Israel and China, Turkey now also wants to become an armed drone power. This arms race serves as an argument for many states to also acquire unmanned weapon systems. In the military, however, their increasing proliferation is also prompting new efforts to modernise air defences.

We therefore look into the question of how armed drones have already changed today’s warfare.

Chris Cole, co-founder of the Dronewars UK initiative
Bahruz Samadov, PhD student and author from Azerbaijan
Gevorg Mnatsakanyan, journalist and conscript from Armenia
Kamaran Othman, human rights observer for the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraqi Kurdistan

Moderation: Matthias Monroy

Image: Bayraktar TB2 at Victory Parade in Baku (President.az, CC BY 4.0).

 

Artificial intelligence: Frontex improves its maritime surveillance

Frontex wants to use a new platform to automatically detect and assess „risks“ on the seas of the European Union. Suspected irregular activities are to be displayed in a constantly updated „threat map“ with the help of self-learning software.

The EU border agency has renewed a contract with Israeli company Windward for a „maritime analytics“ platform. It will put the application into regular operation. Frontex had initially procured a licence for around 800,000 Euros. For now 2.6 million Euros, the agency will receive access for four workstations. The contract can be extended three times for one year at a time.

Windward specialises in the digital aggregation and assessment of vessel tracking and maritime surveillance data. Investors in the company, which was founded in 2011, include former US CIA director David Petraeus and former CEO’s of Thomson Reuters and British Petroleum. The former chief of staff of the Israeli military, Gabi Ashkenazi, is considered one of the advisors. „Artificial intelligence: Frontex improves its maritime surveillance“ weiterlesen

Libya and Russia: NATO spy drones fly first missions

Western military forces have stationed seven GLOBAL HAWK on Sicily. Unlike US Air Force drones, NATO switches off their transponders during missions

A drone stationed in Sicily as part of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) programme has completed its first missions. Flights were made towards Libya and Russia, reports ItalMilRadar. The internet portal evaluates the data from transponders that large aircraft must have installed. However, the devices were switched off over the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. So it is unclear how close the aircraft flew to the territory of the two countries. Depending on the altitude, NATO drones can perform reconnaissance up to 200 kilometres inland. „Libya and Russia: NATO spy drones fly first missions“ 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

New arms deal: Ukraine wants armed drone fleet from Turkey

Turkey is one of the few countries that manufactures, exports, deploys armed drones abroad and even at home. The unmanned offensive weapons could soon be manufactured in Ukraine. A jointly produced drone-bomber is also expected to go into series production soon.

The government of Ukraine plans to purchase up to 48 Turkish combat drones and with control stations for the military. Because the order is for a considerable quantity, the governments in Kiev and Ankara might conclude an agreement to produce the aircraft in Ukraine.

The information comes from an interview with Vadim Nozdrya, head of the state organisation Ukroboronprom, published by the Ukrainian web portal „LB“ on Monday. Ukroboronprom is the umbrella organisation of defence companies in Ukraine. „New arms deal: Ukraine wants armed drone fleet from Turkey“ weiterlesen