The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) has awarded Airbus and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) a contract to operate a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) RPAS for maritime aerial surveillance services.
The service will be delivered in Greece, and/or Italy and/or Malta within a framework contract. The service will include the provision of a RPAS platform, payload, communication equipment and capacity, mission storage and all necessary experts managing the system and providing operational support. Under the contract, Airbus and IAI will stand ready for pre-planned assignments as well as for ad-hoc calls.
The maritime Heron RPAS from IAI 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, e.g. in the context of coordinated European monitoring activities.
The RPAS will be fitted with dedicated payloads (e.g. electro-optical for day and infrared for night purposes, maritime patrol radar made by IAI and automatic identification system), communication equipment, and corresponding ground mission control and support.
The contract announcement follows a number of trials held over the past years to confirm and highlight the benefits of unmanned aerial systems in terms of precise and long endurance surveillance. The maritime Heron is being used amongst others by the Israeli navy as a patrolling tool.
“IAI welcomes the signing of the contract with Frontex and achieving this landmark with the maritime Heron. 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,” said IAI executive vice president and general manager of the Military Aircraft Group, Moshe Levy.