Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has begun testing the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) in Greece, Italy and Portugal to monitor the European Union’s external borders.
Frontex is exploring the surveillance capability of the medium altitude long endurance RPAS and evaluating the related cost efficiency and endurance. The agency will test the unmanned aircraft in several operational situations. These include surveillance of the sea, support of Search and Rescue operations, detection of vessels suspected of criminal activities, such as drug and weapon smuggling and information sharing with multiple users in real time.
In Greece, the trial that started this week is supported by the Hellenic Coast Guard, in cooperation with the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority and Air Force. In Italy, the trial, which is in its last phase of preparations, will be supported by Polizia di Stato and Guardia di Finanza.
The RPAS being tested by Frontex carry surveillance equipment, including thermal cameras and radars. The testing in Greece and Italy is scheduled to be completed this year.
In Portugal, the agency is using a smaller unmanned aircraft to monitor the North Atlantic Ocean and share this information in real time. This capability allows Frontex and national authorities to react more quickly to cross-border crime, especially drug smuggling.
In Portugal, Frontex is working together with the European Maritime Safety Authority (EMSA), which provides the RPAS to Frontex there. The agency is also cooperating with the Portuguese Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR), Navy and Air Force. The operation will be remotely coordinated from the Frontex Situational Centre in Poland by both Frontex experts and Portuguese authorities.