Hensoldt’s Argos II HD electro-optical system will be deployed on two tethered aerostats and deliver extensive security surveillance over Greek islands as part of the European Union’s Frontex maritime/border surveillance initiative in the Mediterranean Sea.
Frontex – the European Border and Coast Guard Agency – has the mandate to safeguard the external borders of the European Union and ensure the freedom and territorial integrity of member states. The aerostats will help Frontex protect Europe’s strategic south-eastern border.
Andreas Huelle, the Head of Hensoldt’s Optronics Division, said the technology offers Frontex the ability to monitor a very strategic maritime coastline and collect critical data. The deployment of the technology pilot programme will start in the European summer and continue for several months.
The Argos II HD forms part of an integrated turn-key solution that consists of sensors that are fitted on two aerostats, provided by CNIM Air Space, tethered on Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. The islands are strategically located in one of the most active border areas in Europe, Hensoldt said.
At altitudes of several hundred metres above the host islands, the Argos II covers a range of up to 40 km and can detect both large and small vessels. It is in operation 24/7, day and night, even in inclement weather, Hensoldt said, adding that the continuous zoom thermal imaging camera records images and transmits video and data in real time to base stations on the ground.
“This is an innovative technology solution to assist governments and agencies such as Frontex to monitor transgressions of law on the borders of the European Union,” said Huelle. This has been identified as a strategic priority by both the EU and the United Nations.
“This is a great opportunity for Hensoldt to partner with Frontex and to demonstrate the abilities of the Argos-II to provide advanced surveillance capabilities and improved situational awareness,” said Mischa Niedinger, the Director of Airborne Systems Sales at Hensoldt.
The Argos II is already widely used in the security and surveillance environments, including by the German Federal Police, where it is deployed in anti-smuggling, illegal trafficking, and border security operations.
The Argos II HD gimbal was specifically designed for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The gimbal consists of a mid-wave megapixel HD thermal imager (MWIR) and a multi-spectral HDTV camera, both featuring continuous optical and electronic zoom capability. An optional multi-spectral HDTV spotter camera enables longer range target identification. The Argos II is centred on a fully integrated, Stabilized Turret Assembly.
An internal Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and GPS enable accurate geolocation of ground targets and steering or tracking of the system’s line of sight to pre-defined GPS locations, providing commanders with real-time intelligence in areas of operational interest while the integral auto tracker function provides tracking of moving or static targets in the line of sight.
Advanced image processing functions, including picture-in-picture display, edge enhancement, haze penetration, pseudo colours and day/thermal image fusion provide optimized image performance for varying operational conditions.
The Argos II system can also be equipped with a dual-wavelength, high-power, low-divergence laser designator/distance detector (LDR). The LDR has selectable target designation and eye-safe range finding modes and also includes a training mode.
The Argos II is designed for installation on helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles to provide observation and targeting capabilities for military, border and maritime patrol and law enforcement missions.