East Iceland residents will, in the coming weeks and months, become familiar with the sight of a 15-metre wide unmanned aircraft making regular take-offs and landings at Egilsstaðir airport.
The Icelandic coastguard and the European Maritime Safety Agency are testing the new aircraft in East Iceland for the next three months.
The drone, or remote-controlled aeroplane, is a Hermes 900 and is controlled from a satellite. It can fly for 800 kilometres and is equipped with cameras, radar, and equipment to pick up emergency signals. Its capabilities are being tested for ocean patrols, search & rescue missions, and pollution monitoring off the Icelandic coast.
While there is nobody on board the plane, a sizeable ground crew is needed to operate it and it is controlled by qualified pilots. The Hermes 900 is not a small drone: its wingspan is wider than most Cessna light aircraft and only slightly shorter than a Twin Otter.