An international drone patrol will help monitor the Estonian sea area until autumn

Since mid-July, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) has been using the European Maritime Safety Agency’s unmanned aerial vehicle to help guard the sea border, carry out search and rescue operations and detect marine pollution.

In Estonia, the aircraft is located with the crew in Saaremaa, according to current plans, until the end of September. According to Marge Kohtla, head of PPA’s maritime security group, this is an excellent opportunity to monitor the sea area, which supports the already existing maritime surveillance system, PPA’s ships, smaller watercraft and PPA’s aircraft.

“We have a good experience of using a similar service last year, when the drone was located in Hiiumaa. In order to intensify regional cooperation with Finland and Latvia, this year we have changed the location of the drone and we will also make cross-border flights during the mission in order to ensure maritime security even smarter and more operationally in cooperation with neighboring countries,” said Kohtla.

The unmanned aerial vehicle provides the PPA with valuable information about what is happening at sea. “We will also use the EMSA drone this year to detect possible violations and cross-border crimes, to identify marine pollution and possible polluters, and to search for people in distress during search and rescue operations,” said Kohtla.

The drone image is transferred in real time to the maritime surveillance center, which can use the information operationally to perform its work and alert resources. In addition to the PPA, the service is also used simultaneously by the Finnish Border Guard and the Latvian Coast Guard.

The Textron Aerosonde aircraft belongs to EMSA’s contract partner Nordic Unmanned, which sent the drone to Estonia with its operating team. The Textron Aerosonde unmanned rigid-wing aircraft can stay in the air for about 10 hours and has a flight range of up to 140 kilometers, but depending on the base stations on the ground, it can fly even further. The aircraft is equipped with optical and infrared sensors, AIS receiver and IMSAR radar.

The drone will be located in Estonia in Lõmala, Saaremaa, until the end of September. During the mission, in order to ensure safety, outsiders are prohibited from staying on the territory of Lõmala port.

The costs associated with the mission are covered by EMSA. EMSA offers the member states of the European Union the opportunity to use its drone service to get a better overview of what is happening in the maritime area from 2017.