> our title:

German Heron Drones Supporting UN Force in Mali

> original title:

UN Stabilization Mission: The Heron Drone in Mali

(Source: German Ministry of Defence; issued Oct. 07, 2019)

(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)

Three Heron drones are deployed to Gao, in Mali, to support the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). These unmanned aerial vehicles can reach and observe remote areas by satellite connection. In the most remote corners, very important reconnaissance results are achieved. Thanks to various camera systems, Heron makes a substantial contribution to the situation picture by day and night, and so also protects our soldiers.

Operation of Heron

"Since October 2016, Heron 1 is in action in Mali," explains Lieutenant Colonel Christian U. He is the squadron leader of the Heron squadron. Heron is used exclusively in the countries Afghanistan and Mali and for training purposes in Israel. "The United Nations has a great need for information, and in particular in areas that are difficult to understand, such as Mali, it is essential to be able to use a flexible and far-reaching platform with image-raising capability," he explains.

The reconnaissance results requested by the MINUSMA commander must be available within 48 hours at the Force Headquarters. During this time, the reconnaissance raw material is evaluated in Germany and then the results sent back to the country of use.

Heron is in action almost every day and, if necessary, around the clock. At least one hour before the start of the mission officer leads the weather briefing and the pre-flight meeting for the first crew. The normal rhythm is then at three hours flight service, before the "old" crew is replaced by a new one.

With its precise sensor technology, the Heron transmits pin-sharp images and videos in real time to the ground control station from thousands of meters high. This allows the aircraft crew to quickly identify abnormalities on the ground and report them by radio.

"In the course of various - the following day - preparations for the upcoming missions are made, or 'everyday' activities that occur in the camp, such as cleaning, regulatory care and education and training carried out," said Christian U. After landing, the late shift does the necessary final work. In principle, a flight duration of more than 24 hours is technically possible. In particular, convoys of the MINUSMA forces along the entire route can be monitored seamlessly.

Teamwork is everything

Logistic and technical supply is provided by Airbus DS Airborne Solutions GmbH Limited Liability Company. It is responsible for maintenance and repair and ensures the constant availability of unmanned aerial vehicles. "We are working hand in hand to launch and land the Heron," emphasizes Kai B. of Airbus DS Airborne Solutions. This special kind of teamwork serves to maintain standardized processes during the critical phases of take-off and landing. "The ability for the military pilots to practice the taxiing and starting phase is systemic. That means, it is not a live flight in the home country, but only possible in the simulator and there only with restrictions, "explains the squadron.

Even though there are now very experienced Bundeswehr pilots who would be in a position to handle this all alone, you have to do justice to the entirety of the staff. Such high-quality assurance can only be achieved through standard procedures. "On average, our Heron comrades are deployed twice for six weeks a year. On the other hand, Airbus pilots come into contact with the system in action every four weeks, "said Lieutenant Colonel U." Operational flight operations are the sole responsibility of the German Armed Forces and the technical operations and maintenance and overhaul are handled by Airbus," explains Kai B.

The mission

After preparing for the mission in question, the Heron will be flown either by radio link or, if the area is further removed, by a satellite communication link that has a theoretical range of several thousand kilometers. "My team consists of mechanics, electronics, test personnel and pilots. We can disassemble the machine down to the last screw on site. Every 900 hours the 'big inspection' is due. In this detailed review, special attention is paid to wear and tear due to the prevailing heat and dust generation in Mali: Dust acts on the individual parts of the Heron like sandpaper, "explains Kai B.

Our comrades at the Heron group also take on such heavy burdens on personnel and materials to protect all soldiers in action.