Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Specific challenge:

The deployment of maritime surveillance system for border control has exerted pressure on smugglers in the last years. Drug smugglers reacted by changing their modus operandi using low flying aircrafts to cross borders undetected. It is a global issue, addressed in particular by the Mini Dublin Group of the UN. As an example, this situation has been identified as a major gap to combat drug smuggling entering through the south coast of Spain and Portugal.

In this case the typical scenario (in line with the concepts of operations being defined by the Frontex agency) is a small low flying aircraft loaded with drugs. This kind of aircrafts land in small airports, runways, or even roads and landstrips, which makes the early detection of these aircrafts crucial to determine the landing area.


Required technologies and systems to be investigated and developed may include:

  1. Identification of technological gaps in already operational systems, including those used by the military, and in cooperation with responsible authorities.

  2. Mobile units which can be quickly deployable in remote areas with communication links with command and control centres.

  3. Multi-mode radar technologies for the early detection, target pre-classification and tracking of low flying aircrafts.

  4. Integration of radar data and correlation with repositories of information to predict most probable landing areas.

  5. New type of sensors that could be deployed at low cost increasing the detection and narrowing the grid of detection. The solutions proposed should consider the employment of technologies enabling multi-functionality and miniaturization of the hardware components.

  6. Geo-spatial database of existing and potential runways as well as its operational status, using Earth Observation technology and GIS (geographic information systems) analysis.

The scope and outcomes of this line of research may be applied also to land border security.

Solutions should be validated in a realistic operational context.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between €3m and €5m would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

In line with the EU's strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation[1] international cooperation is encouraged, and in particular with international research partners involved in ongoing discussions and workshops, and US homeland security research entities. Funding for third countries is however still subject to the  evaluations.

Expected impact:

This topic is expected to contribute further to the development of the European Border Surveillance System[2] (EUROSUR).

The impact of the research shall be measured in terms of increased capabilities to contribute to the prevention of cross border crime, in particular in terms of reduction of the traffic of drugs, weapons and illicit substances. Its outcome should complement the surveillance tools (and strategy) being used at present. The adaptability of the developed technology to other missions (not just border security) would be an additional factor of merit.

Type of action: Research & Innovation Actions


[1] COM(2012)497

[2] The aim of EUROSUR is to reinforce the control of the Schengen external borders. EUROSUR will establish a mechanism for Member States' authorities carrying out border surveillance activities to share operational information with a view to reduce the loss of lives at sea and the number of irregular immigrants entering the EU undetected, and increase internal security by preventing cross-border crime such trafficking in human beings and the smuggling of drugs.

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