South Africa a Major Player in UAV Development

South Africa a Major Player in UAV Development

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The demand for South African unmanned aerial vehicles has been growing recently. With the demonstration of Milkor’s selections of UAVs last year at the African Aerospace and Defence exhibition, it is no surprise that South Africa has been emerging as a major player in the UAV market. mentions four companies that have all developed South African military UAV concepts, Milkor, Denel Dynamics, CSIR, and ATE. The UAV concepts range from smaller hand launched drone used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), all the way to large weaponized unmanned aircraft.

So what does each company offer with its UAV capabilities?

Milkor- MA380, MA80, MA18

Throughout the past year Milkor has been showing off its drone array. Going from the company’s largest UAV to its smallest, the MA380 is a long endurance UAV designed for maritime patrol, ISR, and search and rescue operations. The UAV has a flight time of about 20 hours and can reach distances of over 2000 kilometers. It can reach speeds of 220 kilometers an hour in short bursts and a cruising altitude of 14,000 feet.

The MA380 has a maximum payload capacity of 80 kilograms, allowing it to carry cameras connected to a gyro-stabilised gimbal under the nose that can send real time images and videos to the operator. Furthermore, the UAV is capable of carrying other payloads under each wing, further increasing its capabilities.

The MA80 comes in at about half the size of its bigger brother, but with greater endurance of over 24 hours of flight time. Its smaller size limits the MA80 to smaller payloads of 15 kilograms and a maximum range of only 250 kilometers.

The smallest of the trio, the MA18, comes in a backpack and is easily assembled for quick launches. The small UAV weighs only 3 kilograms and can carry light payloads of about 300 grams. It can fly for 90 minutes at a time at about 50 kilometers an hour with a relatively short range of 30 kilometers.

Denel Dynamics – Seeker 400, Hungwe, Skua

Seeker 400 by Denel Dynamics

With decades of experience in the UAV department, some forms the Denel Seeker has been used since the 1980s.

The latest Seeker 400 is a UAV with multi-mission capabilities capable of carrying 100 kilogram payloads, as well as a laser guided missile system. The Seeker 400 can also be equipped with electro-optical sensors that include infrared cameras, colored cameras, laser rangefinders, and laser designators.

Denel Dynamics is also responsible for the Hungwe UAV, a catapult-launched UAV that can transmit real time information to ground operators up to 100 kilometers away. It can fly for six hours with a payload capability of five kilograms.

The Hungwe’s military functions are mainly for maritime security, battlefield support, search and rescue, and border patrolling.

Finally, the nearly supersonic Skua drone was designed to mimic fast aircraft and is therefore used to test weaponry. The Skua is capable of reaching nearly supersonic speeds of 0.86 mach, or 1,062 kilometers an hour.

CSIR- Indiza

The Indiza is a hand-launched mini-UAV designed to carry small cameras. The UAV’s operators receive real time information and images via a laptop operating center. The drone is currently under testing for peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Advanced Technology and Engineering (ATE) – Vulture

The Vulture is a catapult-launched, high mobility UAV used for coastal surveillance, ISR, artillery target acquisition, and border patrol. The UAV features an interchangeable day and night infrared camera, with the possibility of attaching a synthetic aperture radar as an additional payload. It has a maximum speed of 120 kilometers an hour and a range of 60 kilometers. The UAV eliminates the need for a runway since it is launched from the back of a truck.