Greece’s Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy announced on Tuesday the deployment of a surveillance zeppelin over the sea off Samos in the government’s efforts to tackle illegal trafficking of migrants, narcotics and any other criminal activity.
According to the statement by the Ministry, "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).
The zeppelin was granted to the Greek Coast Guard by European border patrol agency Frontex, and will monitor the area on a 24-hour basis. Known as a marine surveillance balloon, it is 35 metres long, has a radar, thermal camera, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and can reach up to 1,000 metres 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.