Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Airbus Defence and Space Airborne Solutions (ADAS) have been awarded a contract by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) to provide Maritime Aerial Surveillance services with IAI’s Heron unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV will be operated in one or more of Greece, Italy and Malta, and the service will include payload, communication equipment and capacity, mission storage and all necessary experts managing the system and providing operational support. Services will be provided for both pre-planned assignments as well as for ad-hoc missions.
The maritime Heron is a proven platform that has flown over 450,000 flight hours both during the day and at night under all weather conditions. The system is capable of flying more than 24 hours in full operational configuration and creates a comprehensive, real-time, naval picture in geographical areas for potential surveillance interests.
The UAV will be equipped with versatile dedicated payloads (e.g. electro-optical for day and infrared for night purposes, maritime patrol radar made by IAI and automatic identification system), relevant communication equipment, and corresponding ground mission control and support. The Heron uses a direct link when flying within Line of Sight (LOS), changing seamlessly to a satellite link when flying Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) to transmit real-time information or when needed to fly at low altitude over sea. Information will be transmitted to a Frontex command and control centre as well as to centres of the respective Coast Guards.
Mike Hoofdmann, CEO of ADAS, underlined that this contract marks a new milestone for the company to extend its successful unmanned operational services, normally provided to military customers, to civil entities such as Frontex and eventually other agencies. “This contract gives us the opportunity to prove our performance on a European level. We as Airbus together with our partner IAI make an essential commitment to the monitoring and security of European external border and thus contribute to the stability in Europe.”
Moshe Levy, IAI Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Military Aircraft Group, commented: “IAI welcomes the signing of the contract with Frontex and achieving this landmark with the maritime Heron. The Heron has successfully fulfilled all missions, exceeding the expectations of its operators. Flying in Europe’s civilian airspace is an important progress for IAI and a solid proof for the RPAS’s ability to fly in civilian routes. I believe this contract will open the door to more civilian markets.”