Where drones monitor the seas of Europe

Where drones monitor the seas of Europe

On 20 and 21 June 2018, in the seas of Portugal, some drones identify an inflatable boat committed to escape the controls of the coast guard. They manage to capture in detail what happens on board. And to find the route to the patrol ship even without the help of the AIS system, which all boats of a certain size must have to report their position. When the drones return to base, the pilots celebrate: mission accomplished. Even if it is a test. One of the many conducted by the European Maritime Safety Agency, Emsa, to experiment with new technologies with which to monitor the coasts of the Old Continent. Over the years, the agency has conducted test missions with drones also in Spain, France, Greece, Finland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Romania, Lithuania, United Kingdom and Italy.

In Portugal, where it is based, Emsa wanted to test the capabilities of "maritime radar and the quality of coverage and satellite connection" of the drones, in charge of identifying, in the area of ​​interest, "vessels suspected of being involved in the transport of irregular migrants and / or other criminal activities on the border ”or“ people in distress on the high seas ”. The final report is enthusiastic: the drones proved capable of finding the source of an emergency signal in the allotted time.

sportsgaming.win was able to access the final test report as part of a request to the documents addressed to the agency to learn about the investment activity on drones and technologies for the surveillance of the seas. Emsa delivered 320 pages on the surveillance activity with drones and on the related competitions (although not meeting all the requests, not responding within the time limits set by the community rules and obscuring significant parts of the documents), which made it possible to reconstruct the mighty control strategy put in place.

The investigation:

The Portuguese front Flying over the Black Sea In the Gulf of Finland Mouths sewn (or almost) The European Commission wants mandatory biometric screening for irregular migrants The proposal aims to increase security checks at entry into the European Union , but fails to indicate the authorities responsible for the controls The Portuguese front In Portugal the tender to test surveillance drones was announced in 2016. In September 2018 the contract was signed. The React consortium, made up of Tekever and Cls, wins. The former is a Portuguese drone manufacturer, born in 2001 and fresh in 2021 from a 20 million funding round to expand business overseas, increase the workforce by 100 people and maintain an annual business growth rate of 60. %. The second is a French company of technologies for satellite tracking, subsidiary of the French Space Agency with a turnover of 152 million in 2020. The same consortium a few weeks ago started its drone tests for environmental surveillance , also in the gulf of Genoa.

But let's go back to 2018 and Portugal. The mission was to last three months, until November, with a commitment of 10 hours of flight per day. At the beginning of December, however, the delays cause a stop in the contract, which Emsa puts down in black and white on 11 January 2019. Problems? For nothing. The agency is negotiating "potential extensions of operations with the Portuguese authorities", so machines will be stopped until 10 February. From Ramonville Saint-Agne, the southern outskirts of Toulouse, CLS replies to the executive director of Emsa, Maja Markovćić Kostelac, that there are no problems, certain that "the efforts supported by React for the suspension / halt of operations will be taken into consideration". In Lisbon they reciprocate the courtesy: contract extended until May 11 and a maximum fund for the contract increased to a sum conveniently hidden by Emsa.

This practice of extending contracts, and at the same time raising costs , is a script that Emsa often repeats. In 2020, for example, it is the turn of the Luxembourg-based Ses Techcom, part of the satellite giant Ses (1.7 billion in revenues in 2021), for telecommunications services in support of drones used in Greece. The Hellenic Ministry of the Interior did not respond to sportsgaming.win's questions about the activity with Emsa. The same goes for the authorities of France, Croatia and Spain.

Schiebel's Camcopter S-100 drone, used by Emsa Schiebel Flying over the Black Sea In 2020, Emsa moves its flock of drones to the Black Sea. these are small vertical take-off aircraft, housed on the Romanian Coast Guard patrol boat dedicated to Stefan Cel Mare, Stephen the Great, the fifteenth-century ruler who ruled the longest in the history of the kingdom of Moldavia. To involve her in the surveillance operation is Frontex, the European agency that deals with the borders of the Union, with which the relationship has been consolidated for some years now, as Emsa herself writes in a Powerpoint presentation sent to the Ministry of the Interior Romanian. In April 2020, the same agency announced to the Bucharest authorities that in November 2019 the leaders approved a strategy that "establishes areas in which multifunctional surveillance operations with drones should be deployed in an even more stable way", involving more governments or Union agencies. "One of these regions could be the Black Sea, with the possible involvement of Romania and Bulgaria", concludes Emsa.

A year later, in February, the request comes from Bucharest to extend the test for another year , in tandem with the Bulgarian authorities. To the Austrian Schiebel, the defense group that has the contract in hand, Emsa extends the contract and payments for up to six months.

Among the documents that the Portuguese agency has provided to sportsgaming.win there is also a Powerpoint presentation of the Romanian Minister of the Interior, used during a summit that takes place on 30 September and 1 October 2021 to examine the results of the experimental drone surveillance program. In addition to representatives of the Bucharest border police, naval authorities and the Fisheries Agency, there are officials from Frontex, Emsa and the European Fisheries Control Agency (Efca). The surveillance of the Black Sea extends from patrols against migrants to monitoring fishing activities and pollution, also with the support of Bulgaria opening its airspace.

The drones are supplied by Schiebel and Nordic Unmanned, a Norwegian aircraft company that closed with 105 million in revenues in 2021 and which counts Emsa among its most important customers, together with the German Armed Forces to which it says it has placed 145 of its vehicles. Emsa, however, promptly deleted all information on the characteristics of the drones used, effectively making much of the document waste paper.

In providing the data to sportsgaming.win, in general, Emsa specified that the parties obscured documents concern the offer of the winners of the contracts, for reasons of privacy and competition protection. In other cases, the agency has deleted data because it relates to "operational tools adopted by the police", the disclosure of which could compromise their activity; data on drones, "which terrorist organizations and criminal networks could benefit from, allowing them to change their modus operandi" or on commercial solutions from contractors.

Emsa also told sportsgaming.win that it could not provide information on the evaluation of the missions because the agency only verifies that the contract “complies with the technical requirements” and “takes note of the number of flight hours and days” for the purpose of payment, but “does not attend the flight sessions”. In addition, the evaluation of the mission is "carried out by the maritime authorities" and the agency "only obtains generic feedback", on the basis of which, however, it then signs contract extensions and increases in payments to contractors.

To respond to sportsgaming.win, however, is the Center for Information and Relations with the Public of the General Inspectorate for the Romanian Border Police, which, like the many companies involved in the tenders, has no qualms about declaring which drones they use. A small drone of Lockheed Martin, the US defense giant, is used on Stefan Cel Mare between August 2020 and 2021. It is the Indago 3, sold by Nordic Unmanned. Between March and November 2021 there is a Schiebel Camcopter S-100. A 2005 model, with vertical take-off, sold all over the world. As the same company explains to sportsgaming.win, "clients include the French Navy, the Australian Navy, the Thai Navy and the UK Coast Guard".

From Bucharest they say that both Rpas "have secured a significant contribution to the missions carried out by our units, which mostly relate to the surveillance of maritime borders, traffic monitoring and profiling, support for search and rescue activities and environmental protection ".

L'Indago 3 by Lockheed Martin, one of the drones supplied to Emsa Lockheed Martin In the Gulf of Finland In 2021, the Finnish border police warm up the engines. In Helsinki, Emsa allocates vertical take-off drones, supplied by Schiebel to which the contract was awarded a year earlier. The plan is to conduct tests in the summer, postponed from the initial 2020 forecast due to the pandemic and scheduled between June and July 2021. In a Powerpoint presentation, largely overshadowed by Emsa, Finnish law enforcement announces the collaboration with the neighbors of Sweden and Estonia. The exercise takes place in the Gulf of Finland and concerns environmental monitoring, sea rescue and border control. The neighbors are interested in the proof. If the Stockholm emissaries consider replicating the test from them, Emsa provides Estonia with "flight plans and data center access credentials", in order to follow all the missions in Finland.

The drones should have also be employed in a joint exercise between Tallinn and Helsinki in the event of pollution at sea, called Balex, in 2020, which was later canceled due to the pandemic. However, the verdict is positive: “Emsa's drone service adds value to the existing Finnish surveillance network.”

Eventually Tallinn also makes an agreement with Emsa, involving Schiebel. Estonia in turn wants to test the effectiveness of the drones of the European agency for surveillance at sea. However, delays accumulate. In May 2021 the test is stopped. Emsa calls the supplier to order, who, as can be reconstructed from the often obscured correspondence, ensures that the mission "is in progress", the material will arrive "tomorrow, May 21" and therefore Schiebel expects to leave the next day or at later "on Monday next week". In the end, the contract with Schiebel is extended to October 2021. In the documents Emsa has hidden the model name of the drone, on which the press office of the Estonian border police clarifies in response to sportsgaming.win: it is a Camcopter S-100 with infrared sensors, cameras, thermal images, AIS receiver and 4-5 hours of autonomy depending on the loads.

While the Finnish authorities have not answered sportsgaming.win's questions, the police of Estonian frontier said that “first, we tested the support of Emsa's drones in a pilot project in the second part of the navigation season in 2020, in collaboration with Finland. In 2021 Emsa operated in Estonia from April to October ".

The Romanian Coast Guard patrol boat dedicated to Stefan Cel Mare, Stefano the great Frontex Mouths sewn (or almost) In general, when the police authorities do not have to report migrant patrol operations are more talkative with sportsgaming.win. The Romanian authorities, for example, explain that during the missions with Emsa no "cases of illegal migration" were detected, but also that the last episode dates back to 2017, because "between the great distances from other coastal states where the migratory potential is high ”and the“ difficult conditions of the Black Sea ”, the route is not practiced. In any case, the alliance goes on. Also in 2022, Bucharest confirms, Emsa, Frontex, Romania and Bulgaria will experiment with patrol drones on the Black Sea, "to increase surveillance capabilities".

Powered by Blogger.