Drones aid SANDF disaster relief efforts in KwaZulu-Natal


The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is using small drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to assist with flood relief efforts in KwaZulu-Natal as part of its Operation Chariot deployment.

Captain Tshegofatso Gwai reports that the drones are being used by South African Army Intelligence Corps members detached to the Engineer Squadron under Joint Tactical Headquarters KwaZulu-Natal.

Due to some areas being inaccessible because of the extensive damage caused by the floods and the province’s generally challenging terrain, drones have been brought in to help gather intelligence on damaged areas. They provide aerial photographs to help analyse and assess flood-damaged areas. Engineers then carry out the necessary tasks as they clean up and rebuild.

“The drones are operated by an enthusiastic and dedicated crew under the Command of Lieutenant Mtshaise,” the SANDF reports. “Drones reach mostly where most photographic lenses can’t reach. This is evident in how drone technology improves the livelihoods of many communities affected by the floods.”

The SANDF was called upon to form part of a multi-disciplinary response team in KwaZulu-Natal following the floods in April. It is tasked with supporting the SA Police Services search and rescue missions; assisting the respective affected Municipalities with mop-up operations, and water supply; rebuilding of damaged public infrastructure, and finally augmenting the artisan capability of the Department of Human Settlements.

Soldiers have been clearing debris, including on beaches, established a water purification plant at the Hazelmere Dam, recovered bodies and vehicles, and rebuilt roads and bridges. The SANDF has also delivered food parcels, bedding and other aid to communities affected by the floods.