The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) has awarded a contract to Airbus DS Airborne Solutions (ADAS), a 100% subsidiary of Airbus DS, and its long-term partner Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to operate a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV for Maritime Aerial Surveillance services.
The service will be delivered in Greece, Italy or Malta within a Framework Contract. The service includes the provision of a UAV platform, payload, communication equipment & capacity, mission storage and all necessary experts managing the system and providing operational support. Under the contract, Airbus and IAI will provide the service for pre-planned assignments as well as for ad-hoc calls.
The maritime HERON UAV serves a range of customers worldwide and is a part of the well-known HERON family which has accumulated over 450,000 flight hours (during day and night missions) 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, such as coordinated European monitoring activities
The UAV will be fitted with versatile dedicated payloads (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 Line of Sight (BLOS) to transmit real time information, or when needed, to fly in low altitude over sea. This information is being transmitted to Frontex Command and Control centre as well as to centres of the respective Coast Guards
Numerous trials were successfully held over the past years to confirm and highlight the benefits of UAVs in terms of precise and long endurance surveillance. The maritime HERON is used by, amongst others, the Israeli navy as its key patrolling tool, successfully performing reconnaissance and security assignments since many years.