Greece deploys drones to detect “illegal immigrants”

gr drone

MEGA TV channel has featured on Aug 7 a brief video story about Greek police acquiring its first drones.

The video was screened during the evening news bulletin and was part of news headlines as well. The story was about Greek police deploying its first drones for surveillance against forest fires and arsonists during the summer, though the reporter mentioned that they will be used also against criminals and during large demonstrations in Athens. 

The reporter refrained from mentioning that drone surveillance capacity will be deployed also for monitoring population movements, mostly immigrants and refugees. But the Greek police has admitted that this is the main reason it has in mind for acquiring drones. Specifically, UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are a component of the Internal Security Fund program proposal submitted by Greek authorities to the EC last month. The proposal mentions literally that HP will use UAV in order to “detect illegal immigrants crossing border points which are not accessible by border guards and means”. Most of the cost for this equipment will be covered from ISF. It is difficult to estimate the exact cost of the equipment but this will for sure rate to many millions of euros.

The video featured by the Greek channel involved pics of the specific equipment Greek Police has deployed. This (with almost absolute certainty) is the SpyLite model produced by Israeli company Bluebird. According to the company’s website “SpyLite is a mature, advanced, combat-proven, extended performance electric Mini-UAS, optimised to provide covert, “over-the-hill” or extended range real-time visual intelligence”. (See more here: http://www.bluebird-uav.com/spylite/)

The reporter said that Greek police has at the moment three UAVs at its disposal and that its intention is to acquire seven in total. This is a bit confusing given that it is common for every three flying objects to deploy a ground control station. It is my impression that number seven is inaccurate but we should wait until we learn more. The three flying objects at the disposal of Greek police are possibly the fist delivery of a running contract or the operation phase of an already running pilot project for the deployment of drones for border control that goes back at least since spring of 2013.

On Aug 15th Kathimerini published a similar report that repeated the claim that UAVs will focus on assisting firefighters work. This is possibly due to the argument the police is using itself. The three models that are already operational according to the piece resemble again the Spylite but in this case it is mentioned that Hellenic police intends to buy another three somewhat larger UAVS (this could be the WanderB model produced by the same company http://go.shr.lc/1JkDSnc ). The report mentions the importance of a Frontex demo in 2011 when companies presented their drones to security institutions representatives, which took place in Greece, in spreading the way for Greece to acquire this technology.

For background reading on the role of Frontex and EU border control policy on Greece’s interest to acquire UAVs, as well as how Greece has decided to acquire this Israeli equipment see an older article, out since December 2014: http://wp.me/p3HsmP-9c

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