CSIR hosting UAV User Forum


The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will later this week be hosting the fourth unmanned aerial systems (UAS) user forum, which will bring together unmanned systems stake-holders and users to discuss the future use of these systems in Africa.

The event takes place at the CSIR in Pretoria on Wednesday 29 November at 12:00. There will be presentations, by Dr Lelanie Smith on the AREND unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) project and by Duncan Higgs on small UAV engine test rigs before general discussions and a braai.

The UAS forums were initially started and have been hosted to date by Paramount Advanced Technologies (PAT), but the CSIR is hosting this year and Thales may host the next forum in 2018.

The forum attracts unmanned systems stakeholders and users including members from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), South African Air Force (SAAF), South African Police Service (SAPS), and interested parties from the security, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and oil and gas sectors.

A number of companies will be taking part in the event, including Desert Wolf, ArgenTech Solutions, the UniteGroup, Aerial Monitoring Solutions (AMS) and PAT. The CSIR will showcase some of its own UAVs, including the LEMU (Long Endurance Modular Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and Indiza. The latter is a two metre span, hand launched, rugged mini-UAV. The Indiza airframe can house a number of generic camera and electronic intelligence pods. The CSIR will also bring its mission simulator to the forum.

According to the CSIR, the key objective of the forum is to discuss the operational application of autonomous systems and the associated practical issues. Ralph Mills, CEO of PAT, said the forum is aimed at exploring the challenges and opportunities facing UAV users, such as legislation, and exploring innovation and technology.

John Monk, Principal Engineer at the CSIR, pointed out that UAVs are a disruptive technology and that there are myriad uses for UAVs, from flying around warehouses scanning barcodes for inventory to dropping lifebuoys to people in need of rescue at sea.

South Africa was one of the first few countries in the world to regulate the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, and requires operators to undergo training, register their aircraft and receive permission to fly commercial operations. However, there is concern that these regulations are too onerous and are holding back the industry, and that South Africa is falling behind other countries – for instance Rwanda is testing UAVs to deliver medical supplies and Botswana has opened a UAV testing corridor. These and other issue will come under the spotlight at the UAS Forum.

The Forum has generated a lot of interest, with the venue at capacity. Those interested in attending the next Forum need to contact John Monk to register as space is limited.