The European Agency for the Protection of External Borders (FRONTEX) started operating its Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) IAI Heron from Malta International Airport. The first flight took place on 29 April 2021.
The Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) Heron received Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) serial AS2132. It is also marked 571, which is the Israeli serial or construction number.
In 2020, FRONTEX awarded contracts totalling €100 million to Airbus Defence and Space Airborne Solutions (ADAS) and IAI to operate the RPAS for maritime aerial surveillance services.
On Friday 30 April 2021, the Heron performed the first test flight. In an interview with the Times of Malta, the FRONTEX spokesperson said that the RPAS will be used purely for border surveillance purposes and will not carry weapons. According to unconfirmed reports, the Heron will stay for eight months at Malta.
Photo by Shaun Psaila