Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in partnership with Airbus DS Airborne Solutions, a subsidiary of Airbus DS successfully completed 200 flight hours with the maritime Heron Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems as part of marine patrol and coastal guard missions on Crete, Greece. The Heron flew in European civilian airspace under a civilian code.
Flying for FRONTEX, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the maritime Heron performed a series of flights equipped with an electro-optical payload for day and night vision, a marine radar made by IAI and an automatic identification receiver. Each mission lasted 14 hours on average. The surveillance platform Heron 1 used a direct link when flying within Line of Sight (LOS), switching seamlessly to a satellite link when flying Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) to transmit real time information to multiple users in real time.
IAI and Airbus were selected by FRONTEX in a contract that includes operating the RPAS in daily security and coastal guard missions, maintenance and more. IAI and Airbus will provide the service for pre-planned assignments as well as for ad-hoc calls. The current contract covers 600 flight hours and may be extended into a longer-term agreement.
The Maritime Heron RPAS serves a range of customers worldwide, and is a part of the well-known "Heron" family which has accumulated over 300,000 flight hours, day/night missions, under all weather conditions. The Heron can fly 24 hours in full operational configuration. It carries versatile dedicated payloads to provide a clear, real-time intelligence picture to the marine vessels' commanders and teams.
The only RPAS directly controlled by a ship's command system since 2010, the maritime Heron is in service with the Israel Navy as its key patrolling tool, successfully performing reconnaissance and security assignments for many years.
Avi Bleser, Vice President of Marketing of IAI's MALAT Division said: "We welcome the contract with Frontex and the cooperation with Airbus. Flying in European airspace is a breakthrough for IAI. The Heron successfully completed all its missions and exceeded expectations, proving that it can fly civilian routes without any problems. We believe this is a significant step forward for IAI into other commercial markets for the Heron RPAS."
Thomas Wehrhahn, CEO of Airbus DS Airborne Solutions (ADAS) said: "This long endurance maritime surveillance contract marks a new milestone in our ability to extend our successful unmanned operational services from military customers to civilian stakeholders such as FRONTEX and eventually other EU agencies. It also further demonstrates our capacity in selecting the right tools and collaborations for our teams to provide the best possible service to our European customers".