In response to reports about the confiscation of a saildrone found in Namibian territorial waters near Lüderitz, the United States embassy in Namibia strongly refuted claims that its government is involved with or has interfered with the confiscated drone.
This comes after the Namibia Defence Force on Thursday confirmed they confiscated a sophisticated sailing drone, believed to have been active at the coast in the vicinity of Lüderitz for half a year.
NDF spokesperson Petrus Shilumbu said although there is nothing much to share at this stage, no one came forth to claim ownership through the right channels. It is suspected that the drone has been at sea for six months, and it has been under surveillance.
“Any reports, articles, or social media postings that say otherwise are incorrect and based on groundless accusations. We call on all actors to stop the spread of misinformation and to seek the facts before sharing incorrect information,” said US embassy spokesperson Tiffany Miller.
Miller said although the drone is made and operated by Saildrone, a private US company, the Swedish Institution - University of Gothenburg contracted the drone for marine research purposes.
According to her, as the research is being conducted by a third-party private institution, the US embassy has no details on the marine scientific research it was conducting.
However, she confirmed an open search on the University of Gothenburg’s website shows that it has a robust marine research programme. It has collaborated with other international research partners as early as 2019 to conduct marine scientific research in the Southern Ocean often using cost-effective saildrones for ocean data collection.
Equally, an open search on Saildrone’s website shows that saildrones are used to gather ocean data. The website further provides details on the company’s many global partners.
The sailing drone was confiscated from two South African nationals, who were sent by the controller or operator in the USA to recover it from the sea.
The drone was reportedly transported under heavy military guard to Windhoek for further analysis. A local tour operator from Lüderitz was allegedly also contacted by the controller or operator in the USA to assist in pulling the drone to the port, doing so without reporting it to the port authorities or other security stakeholders.
Shilumbu said a full and comprehensive update about the drone will be provided at a later stage.