Frontex’s surveillance zeppelin deployed over Samos maritime area

ARCHIV - Ein Boot mit Flüchtlingen aus Nordafrika nähert sich am 09.04.2011 der süditalienischen Insel Lampedusa und wird von einem Patrouillenboot der Küstenwache in den Hafen geschleppt. Viele Menschen flüchten aus Afrika nach Europa. Foto: Ettore Ferrari/ANSA/epa/dpa (zu dpa "Afrikas Elend treibt den Strom der Flüchtlinge nach Europa" vom 03.01.2014) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

A zeppelin equipped with surveillance cameras was deployed over the sea off Samos, the Greek Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy announced on Tuesday.

Given to the Greek Coast Guard by European border patrol agency Frontex, the zeppelin will monitor the area on a 24-hour basis, to tackle illegal trafficking of migrants, narcotics and any other criminal activity.

Known as the marine surveillance balloon, it is 35 meters long, has a radar, thermal camera, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and can reach up to 1,000 meters from its base station.

According to the Greek Coast Guard, a mobile in-truck sensor station has been set up in Samos with the corresponding equipment from the Portuguese National Guard’s maritime surveillance system (GNR), to compare its operational and calibration capabilities in real-time, and to find technical solutions both when grounded and while airborne.

This is a pilot action in the framework of Joint Operation Poseidon, which has been running since May 2008 under the auspices of Frontex, in coordination with the Greek Police and Coast Guard.

In a statement, the Ministry emphasizes that, “the Greek Coast Guard becomes the first EU Member State coast guard to use a zeppelin to police a maritime region and tackle cross-border crime, only 10 months after the first pan-European deployment of the Heron Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial system (UAS).