On Monday 5 October NL EASP AIR started a test- and training flight programme with a new PA31 PANTHER Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
This programme will take 1 week and is situated at different sites in The Netherlands. In particular, the integration of the I-COP Command & Control System will be tested.
The new PANTHER01 MPA is specifically intended for FRONTEX operations and is, among other sensors and systems, equipped with a Thuraya 444 Kbps SatCom, MX15 EO/IR, Radar, AIS and FlyingFish-III satellite telephone detection equipment.
With an endurance of 6.5 hours and a patrol speed of approximately 160 MPH, it is a platform that fits perfectly with FRONTEX’s concept of operations and the associated cost per flight hour.
The PANTHER is deployed in close collaboration with NL EASP AIR’s partner 2Excel Aviation (UK). Pieter Voeten, CEO of NL EASP AIR:
“An intensive collaboration with 2Excel is only a logical next step in our growth strategy; in our opinion 2Excel is one of the most professional Special Missions operators, for example for the UK Border and Coast Guard”. 2Excel Aviation operates more than 30 special mission and VIP aircraft.
This also includes two Boeing 727s, intended for anti-Oil Spill operations.
In addition, 2Excel has a complete design and engineer organization. Voeten: “This engineering department completed the installation of all sensors and systems in this first ‘low cost-long range’-MPA. For this moment, all MPA’s used for NL EASP AIR FRONTEX operations will be manned by Dutch, security-cleared crews”.
Arnie Palmer, director of 2Excel Special Missions adds “In the near future we will jointly develop new, innovative platforms. In view of the experience of 2Excel with the installation of sensors and systems, belly pods and the mission concepts of NL EASP AIR, the emphasis will be on flexibility and interchangeability of complete surveillance and detection systems. Not only in the domain of Border control operations but also pollution detection, emission detection, anti-pollution- and anti-oil spill operations”. On board the new MPA, the Mission Management System I-COP®, developed by NL EASP AIR, will be deployed.
I-COP® supports an integrated Command & Control Concept for several EU agencies, such as FRONTEX, EMSA and EFCA and is a completely Dutch invented and developed software platform. “We have now entered the 3rd generation of the I-COP® platform.
Together with our development partner SWECO, we will complete all system tests and training courses early October: I-COP® is a highly efficient and much more cost-effective platform than other mission management systems. ‘Made in the Netherlands’ and tested and proven in many FRONTEX search and rescue operations, ”says Pieter Voeten. “With the deployment of I-COP®, more than
3,000 people in distress have been traced and rescued”.
The large bandwidth and high data speed of the I-COP communication platform is partly due to the collaboration with the SCOTTY Group (Austria).
SCOTTY is NL EASP AIR’s permanent partner in the field of Satellite communication systems. The SCOTTY THURAYA SatComm systems previously chosen for the DO328 will also be used in the PANTHERs. This SatComm system provides a bandwidth of 444 Kbs which is comparable to video conference speed. This SCOTTY system supports the downstream of near-real time live
video feed to ground stations.
“All tests are carried out from Den Helder Airport. For us the ideal home base for our PANTHER FRONTEX operations. In my view, Den Helder Airport has one of the most innovative, strategic visions. Not only do we have all conceivable logistics facilities available at Den Helder; the developments within NL EASP AIR with regard to the future deployment of maritime surveillance drones can also be built up here ”.
Conny van den Hoff (director of Den Helder Airport) is pleased with the arrival of NL EASP AIR: “Den Helder Airport, as an operational and knowledge center for rotary, drone and special mission operations, is undergoing strong development. It is special that commercial parties such as NL EASP AIR are able to appreciate and validate