A joint drone patrol took lplace over the Gulf of Finland at the end of last week, as a collaboration between the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), the Finnish Border Guard (RAJA) and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).
Starting from 2017, EMSA offers EU member states the opportunity to use its drones, to get a better overview of what is going on in their maritime areas. Since the beginning of July, one Schiebel CAMCOPTER S-100 unmanned aerial vehicle has been made available to the Finnish RAJA, and last week establishing a direct communication link with Estonia was tested for the first time.
During the tests carried out over three days, a drone flying over Finland provided real-time images to a PPA maritime surveillance center and patrol vessel.
Marge Kohtla, head of the maritime safety group at the PPA, said that with the provision of unmanned aerial vehicles EMSA is helping member states with the performance of various coast guard functions, such as monitoring the sea for pollution, the conduct of search and rescue operations, and detecting cross-border crime.
Kohtla said: "A drone enables us to identify the precise location of an accident or pollution site, and offers an overview of the conditions on the area. In addition to the existing maritime monitoring system, it serves as a good opportunity to keep an eye on what is taking place in our waters and simultaneously to get a better overview of the Gulf of Finland more broadly. The flights can be scheduled specifically for periods of time when the need for them is biggest, such as when there's more traffic in the sea."
The official said that Estonia aims to expand its collaboration with Finland and the EMSA further, and to bring over the drone to conduct monitoring flights also in the airspace of Estonia. Based on these flights, the PPA can assess whether it is worthwhile for Estonia to commission the service from EMSA for the longer-term, just las RAJA is doing.
EU member states, member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and institutions within the EU can apply to EMSA to provide different unmanned platforms to help perform coast guard functions. The drones can be used in the maritime area bordering on the EU and the EFTA, and related costs are covered by EMSA.
Editor: Katriin Eikin Sein