SANDF spends R32 million on UAVs for border security


The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has spent R32 million on acquiring unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and training 20 pilots for border security, but has failed to acquire additional UAVs.

This emerged during a Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans briefing on 18 August, when the Department of Defence (DoD) also revealed that orders worth R32.514 million for additional UAVs were cancelled “due to industry’s inability to supply the required equipment. In an endeavoured to ensure optimal spending, the R32.514 million was then utilised for the upgrading of border line infrastructure.”

By means of reprioritisation from within Joint Operations during the current year, the R32.514 million is planned to be utilised for land, air and maritime border technology, the Department of Defence said.

It is not clear what unmanned aerial vehicles are being used, but the SANDF is known to fly DJI Phantoms and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-developed Indiza hand-launched fixed wing UAVs. The SANDF is believed to have started flying these UAVs since at least 2018, and in 2019 it emerged that they would also be deployed by the South African contingent in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

To improve border security, National Treasury allocated R225 million to the Department of Defence over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework period. This includes R65 million in the 2020/21 financial year; R75 million in the 2021/22 financial year; and R85 million in the 2022/23 financial year.

“Plans to spend the allocated R75 million for FY2021/22 are in place and expenditure will be reported-on during the following quarters,” the DoD told Parliament.