An underwater drone found by a fisherman at Selayar Island in South Sulawesi. (B1 File Photo)

Indonesian Navy Investigates Foreign Sea Glider Found in S. Sulawesi

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

JANUARY 05, 2021

Jakarta. The Indonesian Navy is still trying to determine which country had launched the underwater drone or sea glider found in Selayar Island, South Sulawesi.

A local fisherman recovered the drone at Selayar Island at 7.00 a.m. local time on Dec. 26, 2020. The fisherman immediately reported to the village-level non-commissioned officers (Babinsa). The local authorities eventually handed over to the Navy’s Hydrography and Oceanography Center in Jakarta for further study.

The discovery of the underwater drone in Indonesian waters has fueled numerous speculations, mainly regarding its origin and objective. Many suspect the sea glider belongs to China. Experts have urged the government and the military to act fast. But the Navy has yet to dismantle the drone and is still figuring out the country of its origin.

“We still cannot determine to whom [the sea glider] belongs to because there is no writing on its exterior. We will coordinate with the Science and Technology Ministry and the Technology Assessment and Application Agency for further study,” Chief of Staff Yudo Margono told Kompas TV.

According to Yudo, no country has claimed the drone's ownership. But other nations that own similar sea gliders are likely to be aware of this issue with the massive media coverage. The Navy will also wait for their confirmation via the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

"But because the sea glider is found in our territorial waters, it becomes our responsibility whether to develop it for research purposes or destroy it. This is our authority,” he said.

The sea glider has an aluminium body extending 225 cm with a pair of 50-cm wings. There is a 18-cm propeller at the bottom and a 93-cm antenna at the back. On top of the body is a camera-like object.

At the conference, Yudo dismissed worries about the drone being used for espionage by saying its capability is limited to underwater research. The sea glider can capture hydro-oceanographic data, ranging from water depths, temperature, salinity, oxygen levels to hydrosonography. This data can be used by the industry and military.

For instance, recordings of fish sounds come handy for the industry's fish mapping. Whilst the military can use the info on water depth and layer thickness to help their submarines remain undetectable to sonar sensors.

"[The sea glider] is mostly used for underwater research although it depends how the country in question uses the collected data. But [the drone] is unable to detect ships so it cannot be used for espionage," Yudo said.

The naval chief asserted Indonesia does not have a sea glider and thus it cannot possibly belong to the archipelagic state. The Navy, however, will confirm with the relevant ministry if there is any ongoing research partnership with other nations that involves the use of a sea glider.

Yudo highlighted there are no existing regulations on sea gliders' operational activities. Unlike government and foreign warships, sea gliders do not have immunity and can operate anywhere.

"This device [or sea glider] is yet to be regulated in the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and our national regulations. Perhaps with this, we can propose a presidential regulation that bans its operations in Indonesia," Yudo said.

Yudo expects the study on this drone to be completed within a month.

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