The Swedish armed forces have for the first time deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with the United Nations in Africa, using the Ornen aircraft for intelligence gathering in Mali.
The Ornen (Eagle) was deployed to Mali under the UN’s MINUSMA operation in the intelligence-gathering role, the Swedish military said earlier this week, adding that its smaller cousins Svalan (Swallow) and Korpen (Raven) have been flying in Mali for around a month.
The Svalan weighs half a kilogramme and has a flight time of 45 minutes while the two hour endurance Korpen weights six kilogrammes, allowing them to be hand-launched. Both of these are manufactured by AeroVironment in the United States.
The Ornen began flying at Camp Nobel’s airfield in Mali on 1 May with operational flying from 8 May. “It’s really good that we have now got the one jigsaw piece that we were lacking in our intelligence collection capability. So now we’re operating in Malian airspace and this means that we can be much more active in our information gathering,” said Lieutenant Colonel Carl-Magnus R Svensson, who is in charge of Sweden’s Mali 01 detachment.
The Ornen (AAI Shadow 200B) weights 170 kg, has an endurance of seven hours and can transmit imagery over a distance of 125 kilometres. It has a service ceiling of around 3-5 000 metres and uses an infrared camera to send back imagery to a ground station. It has been used in Afghanistan since 2011.
Sweden has deployed around 250 personnel to Timbuktu in Mali, including technicians, imagery analysts, sensor operators, operation supervisors and pilots for the UAV unit. The majority arrived earlier this year and set up camp at a specially constructed base near Timbuktu.
Sweden and the Netherlands are in charge of providing intelligence for MINUSMA, with the Dutch primarily using AH-64 Apache helicopters. Sweden has also contributed to the European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali).