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. „Airbus‘ „Zephyr“: Stratospheric drone beats own record“ weiterlesen

Maritime surveillance: Spy satellites in Frontex operation

Electronic intelligence from space has long been the business of intelligence agencies and the military. Miniaturized technology and Musk’s SpaceX company are now making this interesting for border agencies. Even radars from ships are to be scanned unnoticed by satellites.

To locate and track vessels, Frontex uses Automatic Identification System (AIS) data, which requires every major ship to regularly transmit its identity, respective location and destination to receiving equipment via VHF radio frequencies. In this way, the border agency aims to prevent, for example, unwanted smuggling of refugees or even drug smuggling into Europe. The information is enriched with images from optical or radar-based satellites in an „overall situation picture.“ Frontex uses an algorithm to determine from space data if a ship is behaving conspicuously.

The multilayered surveillance system reaches its limits when ships are „uncooperative“ and turn off their AIS transponders. Images from high-resolution optical satellites are also expensive and can only be used during the day and in good weather. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite data can detect ships at all times, but their resolution is coarse. „Maritime surveillance: Spy satellites in Frontex operation“ weiterlesen

German Armed Forces: SARah-1 spy satellite launches with SpaceX

The German military’s Earth observation program costs around €800 million. The foreign secret service also uses it, but is getting its own spy system under the name Georg.

On Saturday, the Bundeswehr plans to bring its first new SARah series spy satellite into space. The launch, which can be watched live, will take place from Vandenberg Rocket Base in California and is targeted for 1:30 p.m. GMT+2.

The satellite, which weighs about four tons, will be transported into space on a two-stage Falcon 9 from Elon Musk’s company SpaceX. The launch vehicle is partially reusable.

The company responsible for developing the SARah satellites is OHB System in Bremen, which was commissioned to do so by the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support in 2013. The SARah-1 was manufactured under a subcontract by Airbus in Friedrichshafen. „German Armed Forces: SARah-1 spy satellite launches with SpaceX“ weiterlesen

Ukraine war: Russia allegedly uses laser weapons against drones

Russian high-energy lasers are also said to blind satellites. US land forces mount smaller systems on tanks, German Rheinmetall still working on it.

Russian forces say they are using laser weapons in the war against Ukraine to take out defenders‘ drones. This was stated by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov at a conference in Moscow on Wednesday last week. Presumably, the weapons are so-called High Energy Laser (HEL) weapon systems.

Borissov did not explain the size of the drone attacked. However, it was destroyed „within five seconds“. There is no evidence for this claim even on relevant websites of military analysts.

Borissov oversees the Russian defence sector. It is the first time that the senior civilian official has confirmed the use of a new weapon in Ukraine, writes the military portal Defense News. The system is now being mass-produced, it adds. „Ukraine war: Russia allegedly uses laser weapons against drones“ weiterlesen

Space-Eye: Satellite surveillance from underneath

High-resolution images from earth observation could help with non-governmental sea rescues in the Mediterranean. However, these have to be purchased from commercial providers, because openly accessible images from EU satellites are of low quality. An initiative now wants to enrich this data with other sources and evaluate it with algorithms.

The EU border agency Frontex uses satellites to stop unwanted migration to Europe. As part of the EUROSUR surveillance system, Frontex has set up various services to automatically detect ships and boats carrying refugees with the help of aircraft, drones and also satellites. Frontex then informs the relevant coast guards of the sighting; North African authorities then return the boat occupants to countries such as Libya or Tunisia. The satellite data comes from the Sentinels of the EU’s „Copernicus“ earth observation programme; Frontex also buys higher-resolution images from private providers. In addition to Frontex, the EU’s maritime safety agency EMSA also maintains a satellite-based monitoring system, „CleanSeaNet“.

The German association Space-Eye is now also experimenting with the use of satellite data. The information is intended to help rescue organisations take on board people in distress at sea and bring them to a safe harbour. The association’s satellite working group consists of a dozen scientists and students. For the interview, i spoke with development engineer Elli Wittmann, Steffen Merseburg and Jonathan. „Space-Eye: Satellite surveillance from underneath“ weiterlesen

Border with Turkey: EU Commission wants to track down refugees with „foliage detection“

A EU research project is testing the combination of different surveillance technologies on refugees. This involves telephone and motion detectors, cameras, radar systems, electromagnetic sensors as well as eavesdropping microphones. In addition to drones, „stratospheric platforms“ will also be used.

On its research website, the EU Commission states that „irregular migration has dramatically increased, and is no longer manageable with existing systems“. This is why the Commission wants to improve the detection of undocumented border crossings with new technology. The focus is on densely wooded land borders, which are difficult to monitor with patrols. The security research project is entitled „Through-foliage detection, including in the outermost regions of the EU“ (FOLDOUT) and is led by the Austrian Institute of Technology. Among those involved are the French armaments group Thales and border police forces from Bulgaria, Finland, Lithuania and Poland. „Border with Turkey: EU Commission wants to track down refugees with „foliage detection““ weiterlesen

EU Military in the Mediterranean: Mission accomplished

EUNAVFOR MED and Frontex now fly for Libyan Coast Guard

The European Union only wants to observe sea rescue operations off Libya from the air and no longer send its own ships. The warships involved in the EUNAVFOR MED military mission are therefore being withdrawn, while the operation is „strengthening surveillance by air assets“. With this decision, the EU Member States have temporarily settled a dispute with the government in Rome. Italy’s Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini does not want EUNAVFOR MED to let rescued persons come to Italy. The head of Lega is calling for their disembarkation in all the other states that take part in the mission with planes, ships or submarines. Since EUNAVFOR MED was founded, its ships have taken around 49,000 people on board. Almost all were disembarked in Italian ports. „EU Military in the Mediterranean: Mission accomplished“ weiterlesen

Airbus working on deadly swarm of drones

The next generation German combat aircraft should fly in swarms with drones. The capability is currently being tested at the Baltic Sea.

The European armaments company Airbus has begun flight tests on a military training area of the German Armed Forces to use formations of manned and unmanned aircrafts. According to the daily Die Welt, Airbus is testing the swarm flight in combination with a manned fighter jet in Putlos-Todendorf on the Baltic Sea. This so-called „Manned Unmanned Teaming“ (MUT) is to be used in the new combat aircraft that Airbus and the French company Dassault Aviation intend to jointly develop over the next 20 years. However, the swarm flight capability is to be available for other aircraft as early as 2025. „Airbus working on deadly swarm of drones“ weiterlesen