U.S. Africa Command, international partners unite in support of autonomous solar-powered aircraft

The aircraft, on display June 14, 2022, in Spain, should become capable of multi-month, continuous flight and has potential beyond gathering intelligence that supports U.S. and partner-led efforts to counter destabilizing, violent extremist activity in Africa.


“The bottom line is that a long duration and persistent ISR platform has the potential to provide a wide-range of capabilities to us…and our African partners at a lower cost while embracing a low carbon solution.” - Brig Gen. Keravuori
By U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs United States Africa Command Stuttgart, Germany Jun 23, 2022
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Civilian and military leaders from U.S. Africa Command, France, Luxembourg and Spain gathered at the Albacete Air Base in Spain on June 14, 2022, to formalize their support of a technology demonstration of the pilotless, carbon-neutral airframe Skydweller.

The aircraft – the 10-year, old solar-powered Solar Impulse 2, was acquired by Skydweller Aero and has been further developed and tested with U.S. government support in Spain – should become capable of multi-month, continuous flight and has potential beyond gathering intelligence that supports U.S. and partner-led efforts to counter destabilizing, violent extremist activity in Africa.

“With long duration dwell, there is the potential for persistent monitoring of natural disasters to help provide better disaster response,” said Brig. Gen. Rose Keravuori, U.S. Africa Command’s deputy director for intelligence. “Our African partners would welcome persistent ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) that can track piracy, receive indications of illicit trafficking, illegal oil bunkering, illegal poaching, or predator fishing.”

Speaking to the potential effects of climate change in Africa and how that change drives instability that is taken advantage of by adversaries to the detriment of societies, governments and people, Keravuori said the “added capability to monitor animal movements and the spread of desertification are especially critical as we monitor the signs of climate change.”

Development and implementation of the aircraft – better known for its solar-powered circumnavigation of the world in 2016 – attracted support from partner-nation dignitaries for the shared benefits of ending the aviation sector’s reliance on fossil fuel and allowing armed forces to approach security in an innovative, efficient way.

“I want to express our gratitude for the consistent and extensive support provided by our Spanish hosts,” Keravuori said. “We also want to thank the Government of Luxembourg for agreeing to transport the Skydweller prototype aircraft to an operational demo location in the Caribbean where we can learn more about its capabilities.”

The aircraft’s designers are working to make the Skydweller autonomous, and coupled with its tendency to perform better around the equator given weather patterns and exposure to sunlight, the Skydweller would be an ideal platform for use in Africa.

“AFRICOM, along with the U.S. Department of Defense's Research and Engineering Branch and… SOUTHCOM (U.S. Southern Command) are pleased to assist in the development of a carbon-neutral, long-dwell surveillance platform that can assist in generating greater security and development in partner countries,” Keravuori said. “We are interested in, and look forward to, exploring opportunities to coordinate with the military delegations present here today from France, Luxembourg and Spain.

“The bottom line is that a long duration and persistent ISR platform has the potential to provide a wide-range of capabilities to us…and our African partners at a lower cost while embracing a low carbon solution.”

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