The 20 June Leonardo's drone Falco EVO was used in a monitoring operation in the Mediterranean Sea involving a boat with irregular migrants, as part of an activity of the European border guard and coastal agency Frontex. Starting from the island of Lampedusa, the mission saw the Falco EVO, along with other assets of the Agency, identify the "mother ship" from which 81 irregular migrants were transferred to smaller boats, thus documenting a practice increasingly used from criminal organizations. Following the transfer, the Falco EVO, in a specific configuration for surveillance, continued to monitor the ship until an operation was initiated by the Italian authorities to block it.
The drone, deployed at the Lampedusa airport, has already completed over 280 flight hours on behalf of Frontex, coming to complete the 26 June record of 17 hours and 21 consecutive minutes. This particularly long mission was necessary in the face of a need by Frontex to support the interception of two vessels in the Lampedusa area, as requested by the Italian authorities. Thanks to the close coordination between ENAV, ENAC, AST Aeroservizi Lampedusa, the Guardia di Finanza and Leonardo, it was possible to extend the operation, which ended at midnight, by two hours and identify the boats with the help of the Falco EVO.
The Falco EVO has been deployed at the Lampedusa air base since December 2018 as part of a Frontex maritime surveillance project. The flights are planned in coordination with the Guardia di Finanza and the Ministry of the Interior and are operated by Leonardo on the basis of a service agreement. ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, ENAV, the company that manages civil air traffic in Italy, and AST Aeroservizi which manages the Sicilian airport also contribute to the operations.
In its configuration for Frontex activities, the Falco EVO is equipped with an advanced suite of on-board sensors that also includes Leonardo's Gabbiano TS Ultra Light radar for day and night long-range missions. Aircraft operations and maintenance are managed by a Leonardo crew.