Europeans and Israel Cooperate on New Drone Programmes

Major General Carlo Magrassi, deputy chief executive of the European Defense Agency has identified UAV’s as a priority in an era of defense cutbacks. He also presides over an agency which encourages Israel through its arms companies and their European partners to be deeply involved in the security and border surveillance of Europe.

The Neoconopticon reports that many of Europe and Israel’s drone manufacturers are joining together in the OPARUS project: “The OPARUS project brings together Sagem, BAE Systems, Finmeccanica, Thales, EADS, Dassault Aviation, ISDEFE, Israel Aircraft Industries and others to “elaborate an open architecture for the operation of unmanned air-to-ground wide area land and sea border surveillance platforms in Europe”.

Neoconopticon reports that the project has receive 11.8 million euros in EU funding, though other sources put it at 1.4 million euros.

OPARUS is an uncomfortable acronym for Open Architecture for a UAV- based Surveillance System. What ever that means. This makes it a little clearer:

The goal of this project is to elaborate an open architecture for the operation of unmanned air-to-ground wide area land and sea border surveillance platforms in Europe. This architecture is based on analysis of concepts and scenarios for UAV-based aerial surveillance of European borders. It takes into account the emerging legislation for insertion of UAS into controlled civil airspace. The technical aspects cover surveillance sensors, appropriate aerial platforms, secure datalinks, communication networks and generic ground control station. The project particularly focuses on cost-efficient solutions enabling maximum efficiency of the UAS operations for European border surveillance.

This makes it clear that OPARUS is the overall structure for making drones a permanent and well integrated part of the European border surveillance system. And one can predict that it will be used for much more. The coordinator of the programme is SAGEM Defense Securite, a French arms company.

David Cronin, in New Europe, reports that the European Defence Agency (EDA) has created the SIGAT project (Study on the Insertion of UAS in the General Air Traffic), a consortium of  EADS, Sagem, BAE and Dassault.

Cronin also reports a new joint venture between Elbit Systems and Sagem to produce tactical UAVs. Elbit justified its venture, saying that it would target countries who might not want to purchase drones directly from an Israeli company. The new company would market the products of both the partners, as well as creating new drone products. The company would offer clients all of its Israeli products with export licences from the Israeli government.

It is unclear how this affects its relationship with Thales, its partner in the British Watchkeeper system. Does it bode ill for sales of the British Watchkeeper to France, for example? Elbit claims that it continues to support the Thales offer to sell Watchkeeper systems to France.

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