As their deployment to Afghanistan comes to an end, unarmed Italian Reaper UAVs are to be used to monitor soccer games and demonstrations in Italy’s cities, following a deal struck between the Italian Air Force and the country’s police forces.
The agreement, which could see the General Atomics UAVs flying over the streets of Rome, Milan and Turin, is the first of its kind in Europe and is the fruit of drone-friendly laws passed in Italy.
“We are the only European nation flying UAVs at home,” said Maj. Paolo Castelli, the deputy commander of the Italian Air Force’s 28th Squadron, which operates UAVs from Amendola air base in southern Italy.
“We wanted to do this and we were therefore the first to tackle the issue,” he said.
The 28th Squadron operates six upgraded Predator As, known as A+, and six Reapers — all unarmed, despite Italian efforts to win US approval to arm them.
The machines have been flown in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and over the Mediterranean where they have been used to spot migrant vessels sailing from Italy from Africa.
A Predator A+ is also flying anti-piracy missions from Djibouti in Africa as part of a European Union mission.
As Italy’s commitment in Afghanistan winds down, Reapers deployed there are due to return home, while two Predator A+s have been dispatched to Kuwait to assist the effort against Islamic State fighters.
Now, the UAVs could also be called on to patrol closer to home.
“We discussed the possibility of finding synergies with the Italian police, and realized it could be beneficial for both,” said Col. Michele Oballa, head of the 32nd Wing, which runs Amendola.