PARIS, July 21 (UPI) -- Airbus Defense and Space is to provide surveillance drones to the German military for use in their deployment to Mali as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
The Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicles will be leased from Israel Aerospace Industries and operated by Airbus.
"A major success factor for this new assignment is our experience gained in more than 2,300 missions over Afghanistan" said Thomas Reinartz, head of sales for unmanned aerial systems at Airbus. "There we have proven our reliability to the full satisfaction of our customer -- with a fleet availability higher than 95 percent."
The agreement for the drone leasing and support services came from the German Defense Procurement Agency BAAInBw and covers the initial 15-month deployment of German soldiers to Mali, which begins in November.
Mali is battling Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants.
The IAI Heron 1 is a medium-altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle. It has a maximum speed of 130 miles per hour. A range of 217 miles and can carry a 550-pound payload.