With its aerial surveillance, from space and soon possibly from the stratosphere, the EU border agency is becoming a quasi-secret service
Twice in the past six years, the EU has drastically expanded Frontex’s powers. In 2016, the agency was allowed to purchase its own equipment, and first began leasing its own aircraft. As a „Frontex Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS), they observe the central Mediterranean, the so-called Balkan route and the Aegean. Frontex is thus saying goodbye to the principle of always borrowing personnel and equipment for its missions from the member states.This gives the agency considerably more creative power with less control over its activities at the same time.
The FASS flights can be requested by any EU member state with an external border. The decision whether to deploy lies with Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri. Italy first made use of this in 2017, followed by the first deployment at a land border in Croatia in 2018. In the meantime, FASS aircraft are also flying in Montenegro, Greece and other countries. „Frontex has air superiority“ weiterlesen
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
North Rhine-Westphalia will equip the police with a total of 106 quadrocopters from 2021. They will also be used for the „pursuit of offenders“.
In Germany, more and more police authorities use quadrocopters, mainly to monitor the scene of violent crimes or after traffic accidents. The surveillance of political assemblies does occur, but these missions are still rare. Saxony first acquired small drones over ten years ago and flew them at football matches and demonstrations. In Lower Saxony, a quadrocopter once flew during a nuclear waste transport. In Freiburg, a special operations team recently brought quadrocopters to a house eviction.
Other missions took place this year during the first lockdown in spring. Police in Hesse and Bavaria launched quadrocopters to patrol Corona restrictions in parks, and they are also said to have been used on the island of Rügen. However, it is not known whether any footage was collected and processed in these operations. In North Rhine-Westphalia, drones with loudspeakers flew over green spaces to instruct the public. „Police in Germany launch large-scale drone project“ weiterlesen
Three years ago, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior was already arming itself against attacks by small drones. These could endanger critical infrastructures or industrial facilities equipped with firearms or explosives. With the USA, Germany is now leading a working group of a worldwide alliance of states. It is also about defending against „violent extremism“.
Together with the US government, Germany has launched an „initiative to defend against unmanned aerial vehicles“. This was reported by the US State Department in a press release. The founding meeting of an appropriate working group was held within the framework of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) in Berlin on 13 December. The group operates under the abbreviation „GCTF C-UAS“. „German authorities lead international working group on defence against small drones“ weiterlesen