Surveillance Drone Leads Mediterranean Immigration Sting

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Rome-based security-defense company Leonardo Systems says one of its Falco EVO drone systems helped European police catch an illegal immigration scheme.

On June 20, Frontex, (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) launched the fixed-wing drone from the Italian island of Lampedusa, locating a trawler attempting to smuggle in 81 illegal migrants involved in a criminal operation. The trawler attempted to transfer the migrants to smaller boats before being discovered by drone surveillance.

“Following the transfer, the Falco EVO’s surveillance payloads kept a close eye on the trawler until an enforcement operation was launched by Italian authorities to seize the boat,” a Leonardo release states.

The Falco EVO system has already flown for more than 280 hours on behalf of Frontex, with one mission on June 26 clocking in at 17 hours and 21 minutes.

“This extra-long mission came about when Frontex received a request from the Italian Authorities to help monitor two boats in the Lampedusa area. Close collaboration between ENAV, ENAC, AST Lampedusa, the Italian Guardia di Finanza (customs police) and Leonardo allowed the mission finish time to be extended by two hours to 24:00 so that the Falco EVO could support the interception.”

The Falco EVO has been deployed at Lampedusa Airport since December 2018 as part of multipurpose aerial surveillance program. Flights are planned in coordination with the Guardia di Finanza and the Italian Ministry of the Interior and carried out by Leonardo, which owns and operates the Falco EVO under a service arrangement. ENAC, Italy’s national agency for civil aviation, ENAV, the company managing Italy’s civil air traffic, and Lampedusa Airport operator AST Aeroservizi also support the operations.

In its configuration for the Frontex mission, the Falco EVO is equipped with an advanced suite of sensors including the Gabbiano TS Ultra-Light radar, which is suitable for long range missions during the day and at night.



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