Desert Wolf has been demonstrating the Black Hornet mini-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to the South African Army, which has shown strong interest in acquiring the system.
The Black Hornet was demonstrated last week in Heidelberg during the Army’s two-day Cadre Conference, with flight demonstrations every day. Another successful demonstration took place for South Africa’s Special Forces.
Chief of the Army, General Lindile Yam said that his soldiers must have the technology as soon as possible.
Desert Wolf’s Hennie Kieser said that soon most of South Africa’s military, police and state agencies will be operating the Black Hornet, with discussions underway with SANParks for anti-poaching. The SA Army’s artillery formation witnessed a demonstration of the system as it has a requirement to protect its weapons and forward observers as well as conduct battle damage assessment.
Kieser told defenceWeb he is confident the South African Police Service will order the Black Hornet as it is ideal for flying over crowds since if it falls there is very little risk to people – the UAV weighs just 18 grams.
Desert Wolf has already submitted over half a dozen formal quotations and is optimistic about getting orders from half of those.
The PD-100 Black Hornet was manufactured by Prox Dynamics in Norway, but the company was acquired by FLIR Systems in November 2016. Desert Wolf is the local agent for the UAV, which costs around R1 million for a system.
Desert Wolf recently came back from Norway, after completing flight instructors training, with its own Black Hornets for demonstration purposes, as well as qualified UAV pilots, including the first female military certified UAV pilot in South Africa. Kieser said that within months Desert Wolf will have the first female black military UAV pilot as well.
The Black Hornet helicopter can fly for up to 25 minutes at line-of-sight distances of up to 1.5 kilometres at speeds of 18 km/h. It uses GPS navigation or visual navigation via video and can fly pre-planned routes via its autopilot.
The Black Hornet comes in day and night versions, distinguished by the grey and black colours. The grey day version has three cameras: one looking forward, one looking straight down, and one pointing downward at 45 degrees. The night helicopter has two cameras, one electro-optical sensor and the thermal sensor, both looking downward at 45 degrees. An encrypted data link sends information back to the operator.
The Black Hornet was developed in 2007 and been used by NATO forces in Afghanistan from 2011, with the United Kingdom military the first to acquire the type and use it operationally. It has also been used by the US military and has been ordered by 21 countries. The latest order came from the Australian army and was announced earlier this month.
The complete UAV system comprises two helicopters, a base station, controller, display unit and pouch weighting a total of 1.3 kg.
Because the Black Hornet is currently controlled by Norwegian export restrictions, it is at the moment only available in South Africa and Algeria but Norway will consider other potential export customers. In the future, exports may be regulated by the United States, as FLIR is an American company.