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The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) awarded a contract to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and its partner Airbus DS Airborne Solutions (ADAS) 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 includes 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 provide the service for pre-planned assignments as well as for ad-hoc calls.
The maritime Heron RPAS from IAI serves a range of customers worldwide and is a part of the well-known “Heron family” which accumulated over 450,000 flight hours, 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, e.g. in the context of coordinated European monitoring activities.
The RPAS will be fitted 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 surveillance platform 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 at low altitude over sea. This information is being transmitted to Frontex command and control center as well as to centers of the respective Coast Guards.
According to IAI’s announcement, numerous trials were successfully 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 its key patrolling tool, successfully performing reconnaissance and security assignments for many years.
IAI Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Military Aircraft Group, Moshe Levy said: “The Heron has successfully fulfilled all missions, exceeding the expectations of its operators. Flying in Europe’s civilian airspace is important progress for IAI and solid proof for the RPAS’ ability to fly in civilian routes. I believe this contract will open the door to more civilian markets.”