References - UAS Services

Operation of MALE UAS in Afghanistan
Since 2010, ADAS has contributed to the comprehensive situational awareness within the scope of the networked command and control in Northern Afghanistan by providing wide area real-time reconnaissance and surveillance data for the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF).

Also known as the SAATEG program, these activities were born out of the German Armed Forces’ urgent need identified in 2009. The operational requirement called for a MALE class unmanned aircraft system to be rapidly deployed in theatre. ADAS promptly responded to this need by offering a lease-operate-maintain service model on the basis of 3 UAVs to best answer the request of its customer. The scope also extended to the training of the user and maintenance group as well as the certification of the system and integration into ISAF operations.

ADAS successfully managed all these requirements under the timeframe provided by the customer and performed its first flight in March 2010 – 5 months after the award of the contract. Since then, the system has performed more than 45,000 flight hours (as of September 2016) from
Mazar-e-Sharif, in the North of Afghanistan and has become a valuable asset to the German Air Force and the ISAF operations and its successor mission RESOLUTE SUPPORT (RS).

In daily operations, ADAS is responsible for the provision, the pre-flight inspection, the taxiing and the departure of the UAS. Once the take-off has been conducted, control of the UAS is transferred to operator of the German Air Force, which will then conduct the mission.

After the mission, the UAS flies back to the airfield and controls are handed back to ADAS personnel, which then conducts the landing of the aircraft. Additionally, the taxiing out, post-flight inspections as well as necessary repair and overhaul duties are conducted by ADAS.

The spare part management is responsibility of ADAS, as well as conducting technical check flights.

Operation of MALE UAS in Mali

After the decision of the German parliament to increase their engagement in Mali to support the UN Mission MINUSMA, ADAS has been approached by the German Airforce to provide a solution for a strategic unmanned reconnaissance. As a result, ADAS created a concept for operation of the HERON1 in close collaboration with the German Airforce, taking into account the excellent experiences out of the SAATEG contract in Afghanistan. Having signed the contract in July 2016, flight operation will start beginning of November 2016 out of Gao.

Within the timeframe of only 4 months from contract signature to the beginning of in-theatre flight operations, scope of ADAS was inter alia the training of the relevant operators, lease of the equipment from IAI, organization of the transport of all necessary equipment as well as infrastructure and extension of the existing permit to fly  for the Heron 1 to the area of Mali.

From November 2016 on, ADAS has up to 20 employees permanently on site in Gao, working hand in hand with the German Armed Forces to support the MINUSMA mission, providing more than 5,000 flight hours of long endurance reconnaissance operations.

On 1 November, the flight operation officially started with the unmanned aerial system Heron 1 from the airport Gao in Mali. With the official first flight the operation of the UAS started on time as planned by the Bundeswehr.

Similar to the Heron 1 operator model in Afghanistan, ADAS is responsible for the provision, maintenance and overhaul of the system.

First on 21 July, the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) and ADAS had signed an agreement to this effect. The start of the flight operation only 3,5 months later is therefore all the more impressive. The deployment of the Heron 1 in Mali was planned initially until February 2018.

The first flight was an important step on the way to declaration full operational capability (FOC). To achieve FOC, 3 aircraft had to be stationed in Gao and reconnaissance missions was carried out focusing on the north-east of the country in order to protect the citizens and MINUSMA personnel as best as possible.

With a range of up to 800 kilometers of the Heron 1 system, the aerial reconnaissance of the German contingent is significantly extended. The reconnaissance results are made available to the joint evaluation center of the MINUSMA Mission and thus contribute to an increased security of all employees involved in this UN deployment.

The German Armed Forces benefit from the advantages of this operator model. In addition to a high level of availability and flexible contract duration, the Bundeswehr is able to concentrate on its core tasks. Added to this is the full compatibility and interoperability between partner nations. The operations of the Heron 1 in Afghanistan and in Mali contribute to the building of competence within the Bundeswehr with a view to future MALE UAS operations.


On June the 13th 2018 Airbus DS Airborne Solutions and the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) have signed the MALE HERON TP contract after the parliamentary approval was granted the same day.

The contract includes both the provision of MALE HERON TP UAS as well as all operational services required for the system until 2027.

Heron 1 drones, which are currently deployed by the German Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Mali, are to be replaced by the more powerful IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) made Heron TP. ADAS will ensure system performance, flight hours and availability and enable soldiers to focus fully on their respective missions.

The project will have a two-year set-up phase, followed by an operational phase lasting a further seven years

Under the terms of the basic contract, the Bundeswehr will receive five aircraft equipped for reconnaissance missions and capable of carrying weapons, four sets of ground segments, training environments and all system operational services. The basic contract also partly includes the operation in a first deployment.

The systems are equipped with electro-optic and infrared sensors and imaging radar systems to perform far-reaching reconnaissance tasks. Satellite communication systems and German data and voice encryption systems are also part of the configuration.

The UAVs are equipped with a weather radar system so that they can operate in bad weather conditions.

The MALE HERON TP system will get military certification from the German Armed Forces aviation authority in accordance with STANAG 4671 allowing the system to be used around the world – this is supported by the integration of collision avoidance capabilities.

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