The Race is On: Greece is Fast-Tracking Its Commercial Drone Program

Worried about recent threats from neighboring Turkey, its long-time Mediterranean rival,  Greece is fast-tracking the development of a new fleet of surveillance drones that can keep tabs on the nation’s vast island archipelago while sending a signal to its neighbor – which possesses its own increasingly robust armed drone industry – that Greece is not about to be intimidated or pushed around.

Billed as a multipurpose drone, Greece’s drones prototype, dubbed “Archytas,” is a dual purpose craft equipped to perform not just surveillance but also search-and-rescue and tactical military operations. According to officials at the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB), Archytas can provide situational awareness of Greece’s land and sea borders of Greece but can also be armed to defend commercial frigates and to deter – and if need be – engage advancing ground and marine vehicles.

Currently, Archytas is designed as a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) drone with enough energy capacity to fly for four consecutive hours covering roughly 200 miles per flight before recharging. It’s powered by four propellers arrayed on a longitudinal beam which limits the craft’s drag and extends its reach and flight time.  According to EAB, Archytas is ideal for monitoring remote islands with limited launch and landing spaces.  It can also touch down easily on the decks of small seagoing vessels.

Currently, Archytas is still in early development.  Next month, EAB will sponsor a formal unveiling of its new aircraft but manufacturing won’t likely begin until December 2023, with a full-scale flight test scheduled for March 2024.  Greece’s Hellenic Armed Forces and a panoply of Greek civil-protection agencies are expected to purchase the first fully-developed Archytas some time in 2025.

According to EAB, it’s just the first of a series of new dual purpose drones that Greece has planned to bring the country fully into Europe’s rapidly expanding drone space.  The three universities promoting Greece’s new drone program –  the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the University of Thessaly and the Democritus University of Thrace – are also developing a special version of the Archytas that can be deployed in emergency situations, such as fires, floods and other natural disasters.  The new Archytas prototype can fly continuously for 10 hours.

Greece is also developing a counter-drone system that uses lasers to target attacking drones.  The new defensive weapon system can emit high-energy photons from a distance of 5-20 kms at a rate of 3 per second.  In theory, the new system can also take down helicopters and jet aircraft and even incoming missiles.  However, its designers say it’s primarily intended to defend Greece from the threat of drone attacks.

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