On Tuesday, the Belgian army demonstrated its UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles or drones). Since the beginning of April, these have maintained surveillance operations over the port of Antwerp, in collaboration with the maritime police with the sole aim of preventing terrorist attacks. These drones have a range of nine metres and a flight duration of ten hours. A few weeks back, the Belgian fleet exceeded the milestone of 5,000 hours of flight time.
The pilot-free aircraft have both nomal wings and propellers. The crucial difference obviously is that the pilot stays on the ground. Perhaps the most important device on the drone is the camera. This may record ground movements from an altitude of two kilometres.
Since April (shortly after the Brussels attacks), the camera has kept the port of Antwerp (or a 13,000-hectare area) under surveillance. This operation has been executed from Brasschaat Military Airfield (Antwerp) at the request of the police. “An army liaison officer is working within the central bureau so that information may be sent quickly,” explains Jeroen Nissen, interim chief of the Antwerp maritime police.
The actual operational details have not been made public for security and intelligence reasons. The Minister of Defence, Steven Vandeput (N-VA – New Flemish Alliance), came to observe these devices in action. As previously indicated, two months ago the symbolic milestone of 5,000 hours of flying time was exceeded. The army has been using drones since 2002. They have been used both in the Congo and also in Bosnia.