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According to Estonian Public Broadcasting, NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system drones will be used in Baltic airspace from 2017. It added Estonia is also one of the financial contributors to the programme.
In the face of increasing aggression toward the Baltic States from the Kremlin, the drones will be used by NATO for reconnaissance missions. They will also obtain information regarding potential enemies and targets.
The AGS system is operated and maintained by all 28 NATO Allies, and will provide commanders with a comprehensive situation of occurrences on the ground.
Using advanced radar sensors, the AGS system will continuously detect and track moving objects throughout observed areas and provide radar imagery of areas of interest and stationary objects.
All Allies will contribute to the development of the AGS system through financial contributions, which will cover the establishment of the AGS main base, plus the communications and life-cycle support of the fleet.
France and the United Kingdom have their own national drone programs in place, and will replace part of their financial contribution via national surveillance systems that will be made available to NATO.
The drones will enable NATO to perform constant surveillance over wide areas from High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) aircraft that are able to operate at considerable altitudes, and in any weather or visibility conditions.
The drones will be able to spend up to 24-hours in the air, and can reach a maximum altitude of around 65,000 feet (20 kilometers). They have a range of over 16,000 kilometers.
The main operating base for the drones will be the Signella NATO base in Italy.
Drones are legal under Estonian law, except in areas adjacent to airports.