Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Airbus Defence and Space Airborne Solutions (ADAS) were awarded a contract to use IAI Heron unmanned aerial vehicles for monitoring the southern border of the Schengen area, operating from bases on Mediterranean coast.
The contract was awarded by Frontex, European Border and Coast Guard Agency, after a series of trials that began in 2018. Under it, IAI and ADAS will operate drones from Greece, with possible additional bases in Italy and Malta.
According to Airbus’ press release, the service provided will include UAVs, their payload, communication equipment, mission storage, as well as management and support personnel. The release does not specify what parts of the service are going to be provided by ADAS, and what parts – by IAI.
IAI Heron is a medium-altitude long-endurance UAV, introduced in 2005 and used by a number of operators, including Indian, German and Brazilian air forces, as well as the United States Navy. The aircraft is capable of continuously conducting aerial surveillance for over 24 hours and carrying a number of different payloads, including a combination of electro-optical and infrared sensors with a maritime patrol radar and an automatic identification system.
The contract marks further expansion of Frontex capabilities, as the initially small EU agency saw its budget grow three times in past five years, to EUR 460 million in 2020. It supplements and coordinates its work with border and coastal guard agencies of member states, and in case of emergency has a right to intervene on the behalf of the EU.