Drones In the Med

In 2015 Frontex will be testing fixed wing, ship-launched AR3 Net Ray drones built by Portuguese-based Tekever as part of its Frontex mission.

AR3 NET RAY Drone being tested at sea

According to a statement made by Tekever Chief Operations Officer Ricardo Mendes at the Paris Air Show the drones will be operated from a Portugese frigate as part of the European border control mission to enhance border control capability.

“It’s just a faster, cheaper, more effective way of having eyes on targets.” Mendes told Reuters at a press event at the annual aviation show. The AR3 is similar to the US ScanEagle systems and relies on a hydraulic catapult for launching and trap to catch the drone.

The ScanEagle has a 20 hour time aloft and is made by Boeing. Europe has a drone industry but has been slow to catch up with competitive developments in the US, China and even the Middle East.

Tekever is also developing a drone program for the European Maritime Safety Agency using a larger-wheeled aircraft called the AR5 LifeRay. The LifeRay has an 8 – 12 hour aloft time and a sensor payload of 50kg. The proof of concept trial is called RAPSODY with Bond Air Services (UK) as operator Tekever UK creating the sensor platform, and DSI Information Technik (Germany) providing data transmission security

AR5 LifeRay drone

AR5 LifeRay drone

Tekever has also been developing a drone program for the European Maritime Safety Agency using larger wheeled aircraft called the AR5 LifeRay.

The proof of concept trial is called RAPSODY with Bond Air Services (UK) as operator TEKEVER UK creating the sensor platform, and DSI Information Technik (Germany) providing data transmission. The company describes the drone as being used to assist in “controlling illegal migration”.

In a twist, the most advanced drone program currently in use in the Mediterranean is actually privately-funded and run by a private NGO called the Migrant Offshore Aid Station.

The drones in this case are used to rescue those same migrants. MOAS  operates two Schiebel Camcopter s100 with three operators from a 40-meter vessel.

The aircraft are essentially helicopters that lift off from a modified helipad. The S100 have a shorter aloft time (6 hours) but are significantly better for stationary observation and fly at 222kmh with a range of 180kms.

MOAS Schiebel Camcopter s100 in the Mediterranean

MOAS Schiebel Camcopter s100 in the Mediterranean ©MOAS.EU/Jason Florio, all rights reserved.

The Schiebel package is around $2 million dollars for two aircraft, training and operational system. They are currently in use by the Italian Navy and the OSCE in the Ukraine.

For a video of the Tekever announcement go here.