Land Border Control

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The surveillance of borders is an essential function of a state, and is a topic that has gained increased concern in recent years. This study focuses on land border surveillance - a multifaceted and complex topic touching on some of the most critical security challenges of the moment.

The intended solution consists of the provision of a number of services that are complementary to each other, and to existing ground based assets. These services utilise space based observation, telecommunications, and navigation capabilities. It is expected that space based services may provide a more cost effective solution, in particular in remote areas and rugged and inaccessible terrain.

This feasibility study focuses on the determination of the feasibility of using satellite based Earth observation, navigation, and communications services to provide a cost effective operational solution to support the surveillance of land borders. The study specifically targets the land border control situation in areas outside regular border checkpoints. These areas are often characterised by rough or mountainous terrain and can be difficult to access.

The aim is to develop a set of services that can be used by border agencies as part of a comprehensive border control system. The expected benefits are to provide cost effective border control systems in areas where traditional border control solutions are difficult, or expensive to operate.

Users and their needs

The Hellenic Police, who belongs to the Ministry of Protection of Citizens, is the single user in this study. The Hellenic Police (EL.AS) which has around 55.000 members is a law enforcement agency and is comprised of central, regional and tactical services.

The user needs analysis has been completed and the needs have been found to be compatible with our concept.

Service/ system concept

The concept is to provide the following services:

  • Border Mapping
  • Border Monitoring
  • Border Surveillance
  • Border Patrol Management
  • Telecommunications
  • Common Operational Picture
  • Meteorological information

Space Added Value

It is expected that space will provide added value if all, or some of the following conditions are met:

  • There is a border control problem
  • The area of concern is remote
  • The area of concern is in a rugged environment
  • A cost effective solution is required

Product Features

The intended solution consists of the provision of a number of services that are complementary to each other, and to existing ground based assets. These services utilise space based observation, telecommunications, and navigation capabilities. The services are:

  • border mapping; to provide reference mapping of the border and trans-border area
  • border intelligence; to determine the characteristics of the border, in particular, its permeability
  • border surveillance; to detect illegal activity
  • border control management; to allow patrols to be effectively controlled
  • telecommunications services; to provide communications to remote facilities and patrols
  • common border operational picture which links the various services and any complementary terrestrial means,
  • and meteorological information.

Not all the services need to be used but the common operational picture is considered a core service. It is expected that a space based solution will provide a more cost effective solution than the deployment of terrestrial capability, in particular in remote areas and rugged and inaccessible terrain.

Key Issues

The key issue is to prove the feasibility of space assets to contribute to the provision of border control.

Current Status

The project has now been completed. The key conclusions are:

  • Space based services are useful to border guards.
  • There are no significant barriers to the provision of such services.
  • There are significant markets for such services in Europe and worldwide.
  • The cost benefits make space based systems suitable for those circumstances where the border is rugged or remote and there is a border control problem.

The results have also shown that the use of space assets for the surveillance of borders is feasible under some circumstances.

Astrium has decided that further work, mainly the provision of a pre-operational service, should be done in a demonstration project.

Project Managers

Contractor Project Manager

David Halbert
Europa House, The Crescent
Southwood, Farnborough, Hampshire
GU14 0NL
United Kingdom

ESA Project Manager

Stefan Gustafson
Keplerlaan 1
2201 AZ Noordwijk
Netherlands

Status Date

Updated: 12 January 2012 - Created: 15 February 2014