The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) is testing the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) to enhance the maritime awareness picture in the French Mediterranean Sea in response to a request from the French Maritime agency (Secrétariat Général de la Mer) to set-up a multi-purpose maritime surveillance operation. The exercise is led by the Marine Nationale (Navy) and Douanes (customs) as the strategic and tactical leaders of the operation.
Operational missions started on 23 September for an initial period of three months.
The RPAS service consists of general maritime surveillance over waters under French sovereignty and jurisdiction in the Mediterranean Sea, more specifically, encompassing:
- maritime monitoring and surveillance in support of coast-guard functions – maritime safety and security, supporting further maritime domain situational awareness, fisheries control and law enforcement; and
- maritime environmental protection, namely oil spill detection and characterisation, identification of targets possibly connected and where needed offering support to oil spill response. Marine Nationale and Douanes will command and monitor the missions remotely from Toulon and Marseille respectively and the RPAS will be operated from the French Air Force Base (BA125) of Istres.
The contractor operating the RPAS is the consortium REACT (with partners CLS and TEKEVER) and the aircraft to be used is the AR-5 unmanned fixed wing aircraft. This asset has a payload comprising a maritime radar, electro-optical and infra-red cameras, AIS receiver and EPIRB antenna. It is ready to fly under SATCOM and can perform night and day operations.
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