Unmanned air vehicle to make maiden flight in 2012

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pretoria - The Seeker 400 prototype, which is an unmanned air vehicle, is due to make its maiden flight early 2012, Denel Dynamics said on Wednesday.

"The prototype of Denel Dynamics' latest Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV), the Seeker 400, has been completed and is due to make its maiden flight in the first quarter of 2012," said Tsepo Monaheng, Executive Manager for Denel UAV.

Benefits of the UAV include national security, crime fighting, disaster management, election monitoring and search and rescue.

Monaheng said Denel's decision to invest in the aircraft, which is funded from Denel's balance sheet, was based on global requirements for such capability.

Denel said the Seeker 400, which is deployable in most conditions, is larger and has more capabilities than the previous Seeker II. It is capable of staying in the air for 16 hours and can simultaneously operate two payloads. It has a range of 250km but with the use of the existing tactical ground station, it can be extended to 750km.

Israel and the US dominate in the global market which is estimated at $14billion per annum, however there is scope for South Africa to use local skills to create UAVs.

"There is already a launch customer for the Seeker 400, who operated the Seeker I tactical UAV in the early 1990s. Two other countries, which currently operate the Seeker II, are also interested in the Seeker 400 because the new aircraft can be controlled by simply using their existing Seeker II control stations," said the company.

The Seeker 400 flight test programme will run for most of 2012, with production expected to start by the end of 2012. It is planned that weapons be added to the aircraft with several countries having already expressed interest in an armed version of the UAV.

"Globally, UAVs are becoming ever more important and more widely used. Although costs are coming down, UAVs are not necessarily cheaper or easier to operate than crewed aircraft - some top-of- the-range UAVs are very expensive. But the fact that they have no human on board means they can be sent into high-risk environments and they can be kept aloft much longer than a conventional aircraft."

Denel Dynamics is a division within the Denel Group with its core business covering tactical missiles, precision-guided weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles.

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