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South African Drones/RPV's/UAV's - Prototypes, projects, concepts etc.

Graugrun

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Unknown to many is that South Africa was one of the early (modern day) pioneers of RPV's/UAV's/Drones in terms of military use, later in 1994 we were the first to use them in commercial airspace for civilian purposes (monitoring the first open general elections). Early history on development is difficult to find, however this thread will hopefully uncover some of it and the associated developments.

The first known prototype was developed by the South African CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) in 1977 and delivered to the SAAF (South African Air Force) in 1978. Known as the Champion (McCullagh 101) it was a technology demonstrator and trainer (and naturally to develop UAV know-how/doctrine etc). Four Champions were built, including a pre-production prototype (although with only 4 built, they were all pretty much prototypes). Some of these Champion UAV's were supplied to Rhodesia for use in their bush-war (most likely operated by South Africans)

It seems then that some interaction with Chile followed, then shortly after that with Israel, from which we bought 5 x IAI Scout UAV's - named 'Cobalt' in SAAF service (some say 13). Shortly thereafter we developed our own Kentron Seeker 2B and later 2C UAV's. We started using them operationally during our own Bush-War in Angola and SWA/Namibia. and some of the mentioned incidents include use during Operation 'Askari', a raid deep into Angola starting in late 1983, going into early 1994 (in which one UAV was lost). Also in 1983 a UAV was lost over Mozambique after it was shot down by a Soviet SA-3 missile, after quite a few SA-3 missile had already been fired at it, it was busy doing post strike damage assessment on a raid by 4 X Impala MK2 light strike aircraft, as a reprisal for the Church Street bombing in Pretoria.

Various use must have been made during the following years after 1983, however the next open mention was during the 1987-88 raids into Angola (Operations Modular/Hooper/Packer) in which extensive use was made of UAV's for surveillance, reconnaissance, artillery spotting and more interestingly to lure Soviet SAM batteries out of hiding so that our long range G-5/6 guns could hit them. Two Kentron Seeker systems were lost to the last mentioned tactic, although it was apparently more than worth it - many expensive SAM-8/9/13 were fired attempting to shoot the Seeker's down, in doing so not only did they waste valuable ammunition - but also revealed their positions and many of their Soviet SAM sites were then promptly destroyed by G-5/6 artillery fire (apparently one Seeker survived between 16-17 SAM-8 missiles being fired at it before it was finally shot down).

Various UAV developments followed, mostly held back by funding issues - quite a few Seeker systems were sold internationally, with the latest development being the armed Seeker 400.

Below is a pic from Steven McLean's excellent book "Squadrons of the South African Airforce and their aircraft 1920-2005" At bottom left with the red 'dayglo' stripes and 019 serial number is the Champion UAV, the early Seeker 2B is at top left, the later Seeker 2C at top right and the IAI Scout (Cobalt) is at bottom right.

BTW - this is one of the only pictures I have ever seen of the Champion UAV.
 

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Graugrun

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The prototype anti radiation drone ARD-10 from Kentron (which IIRC pre-dates the IAI Harpy), selected but contracts were cancelled as our 'Bush War' had just ended, and it was not developed any further - a pity as later the Israelis had fair success selling their Harpy drones, so there was definitely a market internationally for them.

Article courtesy of Janes IDR, January 1993 (DEXSA 1992 show report) - colour pic my own.

Anyone know anymore..?
 

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Graugrun

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Nice pics Dinges - it looks like Champion is hanging up in the Swartkops museum or something like that. Clearly the nose is either false or a cover for the real nose (with optics in it).

Here is another one - the Aerotek (part of CSIR) Keen-Eye, circa 1992 - seems it also did not get much further than the prototype stage, that said it also clearly seems to be the forerunner or perhaps even an early prototype of the current Vulture artillery spotting UAV.

Article is courtesy of the Janes IDR DEXSA '92 show report.
 

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sa_bushwar

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sa_bushwar said:
Prototype Vulture UAV
Further comparison between the Yr 2000 prototype and the later production model. Used by the SANDF Field Artillery Formation as a target acquisition and fire correction UAV. Recovery is by flying into a raised vertical net and falling on a large air inflatable mattress, negating the need for a runway; which fits in well with the SANDF doctrine of rapid deployment and mobile warfare.
 

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sa_bushwar

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sa_bushwar said:
sa_bushwar said:
Prototype Vulture UAV
Further comparison between the Yr 2000 prototype and the later production model. Used by the SANDF Field Artillery Formation as a target acquisition and fire correction UAV. Recovery is by flying into a raised vertical net and falling on a large air inflatable mattress, negating the need for a runway; which fits in well with the SANDF doctrine of rapid deployment and mobile warfare.
A static display of a typical Vulture deployment. As this photo is from a sales brochure, the normal expected camouflage is not used. In the backgroung is the command vehicle from which the RPV is flown, the launch vehicle is in the foreground, and the capture vehicle with the raised capture net and inflatable mattress is on the left. The latest version of the launch vehicle used by the SANDF has two of those large boxes, one each side of the launch rail, housing the RPV in a folded position. This version has only one such box on the LH side.

The vehicles used are modifcations of the standard SANDF SAMIL 100 6x6 range. The Command Vehicle sports the SANDF 3-tone camouflage scheme, while the launch vehicle has the older matt brown finish.
 

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sa_bushwar

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Graugrun said:
The prototype anti radiation drone ARD-10 from Kentron (which IIRC pre-dates the IAI Harpy), selected but contracts were cancelled as our 'Bush War' had just ended, and it was not developed any further - a pity as later the Israelis had fair success selling their Harpy drones, so there was definitely a market internationally for them.

Article courtesy of Janes IDR, January 1993 (DEXSA 1992 show report) - colour pic my own.

Anyone know anymore..?
Another view...
 

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Graugrun

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This has been in development for a while, I meant to post something on it earlier - this article finally prompted me...

So the difference here is that it's an 'Active' aerostat, as opposed to other 'passive' ones that have been deployed in other areas of the world.

http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47046:csir-develops-active-aerostat&catid=90:science-a-defence-technology&Itemid=204
 

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Reaper

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I talked to the Fuel Cell UAV project guys and they are looking for funding. So its moving really slowly.

What I find more interesting is this VTOL drone from Alti:
http://www.altiuas.com/
 

Graugrun

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Thanks for that input Reaper!

I do however believe that the VTOL from Alti is not South African, but an American design?

On another note I did notice this little titbit scrolling through the CSIR's last annual report:

"The second part of the project investigates the application of the
new technology to a system under design. Denel is developing
a rotatory wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) carrying
approximately 180 L of fuel. It is estimated that the weight of
the airframe will only be 20% of the fuel weight, making the
structure highly sensitive to the dynamic behaviour of the fuel".
 

Graugrun

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A article on the new LEMU UAV, it'self an update on the "Modular UAV", which first flew in 2009. Interestingly they plan to test three different power plants: Internal combustion, electric and fuel cell. This seems to have been an extended internal CSIR funded project/test-bed, they look to be getting a bit more serious with it now, so clearly there must be some sort of interest from some or other quarter in it...

http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50165:csir-planning-new-version-of-lemu-uav&catid=35:Aerospace&Itemid=107
 

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Graugrun

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Reaper said:
I talked to the Fuel Cell UAV project guys and they are looking for funding. So its moving really slowly.

What I find more interesting is this VTOL drone from Alti:
http://www.altiuas.com/
open props chocked full of lift loss.. :(
 

Graugrun

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Here's a rather interesting one - launches itself by jumping into the air and lands by entering into a stall and lands on it's legs, much like a bird does - so it negates the need for runways etc... Seems to have picked up some sort of interest from the Americans, as it seems that they are funding the project in some form or another...

http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=51931:unique-south-african-uav-jumps-into-flight&catid=125:unmanned-aerial-vehicles&Itemid=306
 

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flateric

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https://passerineaircraft.com/product/jumper/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mY4sBI9pPg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kTQRNflDD0
 

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Graugrun

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kaiserbill

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Nice..
I wonder what happened to the large Bataleur UAV?
It's a shame that seems to have gone quiet..but is perhaps an indication of the difference in enterprise between state and private owned companies?
 

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Graugrun said:
Some new drones from Milkor (of all companies..!?)

http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=53094:milkor-to-showcase-three-uavs-at-aad-2018&catid=35:Aerospace&Itemid=107
Some more Milkor Stuff...
 

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sa_bushwar

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Grey Havoc

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Aerostat platforms in general seem to be coming back into fashion again.
 

Graugrun

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The CSIR developed LEMU, I believe they have strong interest/an order from a foreign client for this (it is still in the final development stage AFAIK).
 

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weirc

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Graugrun
Do you have any indication of the LEMU's intended operational altitude?

Thanks
Colin
 

Graugrun

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Graugrun
Do you have any indication of the LEMU's intended operational altitude?

Thanks
Colin
Hi Colin, no I don't - but I'll do some searching and see what I can find.
 

Graugrun

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Graugrun
Do you have any indication of the LEMU's intended operational altitude?

Thanks
Colin
Hi Colin, no I don't - but I'll do some searching and see what I can find.
Thanks, much appreciated.
So this is the latest update on the LEMU, the article states that a company in the "United States company ArgenTech Solutions has shown interest in the LEMU. Discussions with ArgenTech Solutions over the certification and production of the LEMU have been underway since 2016." It goes into more detal regards the different propulsion options (engines and fuel), it's payload, speed, endurance (8 hours) and although it has been previously mentioned that it is set to operate within a medium altitude - there still is no mention of it's actual operating or maximum height.

https://www.defenceweb.co.za/aerospace/unmanned-aerial-vehicles/csir-progressing-with-uav-developments/
 

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weirc

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Graugrun
Do you have any indication of the LEMU's intended operational altitude?

Thanks
Colin
Hi Colin, no I don't - but I'll do some searching and see what I can find.
Thanks, much appreciated.
So this is the latest update on the LEMU, the article states that a company in the "United States company ArgenTech Solutions has shown interest in the LEMU. Discussions with ArgenTech Solutions over the certification and production of the LEMU have been underway since 2016." It goes into more detal regards the different propulsion options (engines and fuel), it's payload, speed, endurance (8 hours) and although it has been previously mentioned that it is set to operate within a medium altitude - there still is no mention of it's actual operating or maximum height.

https://www.defenceweb.co.za/aerospace/unmanned-aerial-vehicles/csir-progressing-with-uav-developments/
Good info, thanks for the up-date. I have attached a couple of slides I found on the CSIR website. Will keep looking for altitude info......
 

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Graugrun

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asrus_overberg.jpghttps://www.defenceweb.co.za/aerospace/unmanned-aerial-vehicles/successful-test-flight-for-tellumat-astus/
 
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