ALFA: Advanced Low Flying Aircrafts Detection and Tracking

ALFA will bridge the capability gap of operational surveillance systems for border control by improving the situational awareness through the detection of Low, Small and Slow manned and unmanned aircraft.

The last decades witnessed the ever growing effectiveness of Europe-subsidized border protection projects like
 SIVE and SIVICC. As maritime smuggling from Morocco towards the European borders of Portugal and Spain was combatted more effectively, the criminal modus operandi changed drastically, approaching air routes with cheap
and small planes. New drone technology opens opportunity to both manned and unmanned airborne drug transports.

The ALFA surveillance system to be developed within the framework of this project is offering the capabilities for the protection of European borders and for the contribution to the following EU strategic goals:

  • Increasing the EU internal security by the reduction of cross border crime with a significant contribution to the development of EUROSUR (in particular, cooperating with SIVE and SIVICC)
  • The interdiction of drug trafficking
  • Assist the prosecution of drug trafficking criminals
  • The confiscation of drugs and aircraft
  • The interdiction of weapon and illicit substance trafficking


To implement the aforementioned high-level capabilities, the following main technical objectives are defined:

  • Identifying technology gaps in existing system
  • Overcoming the identified gaps, thereby enabling the early detection and classification of suspect air vehicles
  • Using novel data fusion techniques to minimize false alarms and to maximize the probability of detection

  • Robust and stable tracking of all relevant air vehicles, thereby enabling behavioural analysis based on which a proper prediction of probable landing sites will be made
  • Setting up a database of potential landing sites and dropping zones. GIS will be the foundation of this database
  • Using systems and technologies that will allow for low cost implementation
  • Developing a new efficient system with mobile and easy-to-deploy components.

The achievement of the high-level and the technical objectives, resulting in the ALFA system capabilities, will be proved within Work Packages - WP6 "Functional demonstration" in a realistic operational context using relevant targets in close cooperation with two principal end users taking part in the consortium, that are the Spanish Guardia Civil and the Guarda Nacional Republicana from Portugal.

Furthermore, the ALFA system will be suitable for a range of other missions and scenarios such as homeland and event protection and the protection of critical infrastructure.

Engineering is leader of the activities regarding the “Situation assessment and landing site prediction” (Work Packages - WP4), and will have a major role in the definition of the data model, the data fusion and information analysis techniques, and the presentation layer.

The ALFA consortium holds all the ingredients for a successful project and is a well balanced mix of three industrial partners, one SME, one university, two research institutions and two Government Agencies which are the ALFA end-users.