Monday

8th Mar 2021

EU-funded consortium unveils border-control robot

  • The consortium, which includes Israeli Aerospace Industries, at one stage explored arming the interceptor with non-lethal weapons (Photo: lincolnblues)

An EU-co-financed project is aiming to mass-produce autonomous land vehicles designed to stop irregular migrants.

Using a €13 million grant from the European Commission's research budget and €7 million of private funding, a consortium of researchers and private firms has after four years of work produced a functioning prototype of the "transportable autonomous patrol for land border surveillance" or "Talos."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) was demonstrated in Poland in mid-April at a military training ground in front of a hundred-or-so people, including officials from Frontex, the EU's Warsaw-based border control agency, Polish ministers and border guards from around Europe.

The complete system includes two autonomous UGVs, an unmanned command unit and a two manned command centres. Sensor towers are deployed in areas not accessible to UGVs.

One vehicle - "the interceptor" - is designed to track and chase down suspicious people spotted by its twin vehicle, which is equipped with optical and infra-red sensors. If they notice a suspect, they notify the interceptor and the command units, where border guards can order people via an onboard loudspeaker to halt and present their papers.

It is no good running away because onboard motion detectors - known as a "battlefield radar" - keep track of people while human border guards set off to catch them.

Agnieszka Spronska, a Talos spokeswoman, told EUobserver the group is now seeking additional EU funding to further develop and eventually commercialise the UGV for mass production.

The consortium, which includes Israeli Aerospace Industries, at one stage explored arming the interceptor with non-lethal weapons, such as tear gas and, according to one soucre, "a kind of acoustic device."

The idea was later dropped and Spronska said the project never developed any interfaces or applications to house weapons. But official Talos literature says there is still "space" for non-lethal weapons "to be considered" in future.

A Polish border guard on the project's end-user advisory board also quoted by the Talos website said non-lethal weapons could be "useful for [those] countries, where there are no limitations to the usage of [them]."

In theory, just a handful of Talos-type units would be needed to patrol the 12.5-km-long land border between Greece and Turkey, where an estimated 80 percent of all illegal entries into the EU occur.

For his part Erik Berglund of Frontex, who chaired Talos' end-user advisory board, predicted they might one day patrol sensitive sites, such as nuclear power stations. But he said they are unlikely to be seen on EU borders. He noted that Israel might find them more digestible as border control devices, however.

He also said that Talos produced little by way of new technology for all its work, with Frontex interested primarily in using the sensors, but on stationary platforms.

"The major contribution is the mobile command centre and the communications equipment," Berglund said.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

LGBTI fears over new Polish member at EU institution

A letter sent to the European Economic and Social Committee by a group of cross-party MEPs fighting for LGBTi rights expresses fears that a recently-appointed Polish member may try to undermine those rights.

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. Frontex's 'serious incident reports' - revealed
  2. Women hit 'disproportionately' hard by Covid-19, report finds
  3. EU 'Future' Conference plus Covid recovery talks This WEEK
  4. Covid-19 recovery: How to miss the target even with a bazooka
  5. Who cares? Precarious situation facing 21st century heroines
  6. China and Russia abusing corona for geopolitics, Lithuania says
  7. Worries on Europe's infection surge, after six-week drop
  8. EU wants large firms to report on gender pay-gap or face fines

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us