Drones to fly during AAD 2022 for the first time


Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, will have a high profile at this year’s Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition, as they will for the first time be allowed to fly during the trade show at Air Force Base Waterkloof, and will also take part in the air show over the final two days of AAD.

This was revealed during an AAD buildup event hosted at Waterkloof on 15 July (67 days until AAD 2022), which also witnessed a youth development initiative by the organisers to coincide with Mandela Day (18 July) and Nelson Mandela International Day outreach initiatives.

Sixty-seven learners from Mshuluzani Mayisela Primary School in Bronkhospruit were educated on aerospace and defence careers by the SA Air Force, ATNS, SA Civil Aviation Authority, Saab and Hensoldt. The Deputy Chief of the South African Air Force, Major General Innocent Buthelezi, said “we aim to ignite the spark of aviation in their minds so that they can always remember that they were part of this august moment.”

Buthelezi was present on Friday for the signing of agreements between the AAD organisers and partners including the City of Tshwane, Gautrain, and South African Airways. Buthelezi said that the world has changed a lot since the last AAD in 2018 but some things have remained the same, such as aerospace and defence being vital triggers for many economies around the world to grow and survive. “We found that countries and governments still need world class capabilities, technologies and equipment to protect and secure the sovereignty of borders and safeguard the lives of people at all costs.”

The AAD organisers, he said, are not ignoring the momentum growing in the use of military and commercial UAVs, and thus for the first time in the history of AAD, “we have secured permission for use of UAVs during the show. This is indeed a milestone for AAD.”

A Phantom 4 Pro UAV was flown inside one of the hangars at Air Force Base Waterkloof to reinforce the organisers’ commitment to bringing UAVs to the exhibition. UAVs will also take part in the two air show days on 24 and 25 September (the trade days are 21-23 September).

Buthelezi said that when defence minister Thandi Modise launched AAD 2022 on 5 May, “we knew without a doubt it was all systems go. It is indeed all systems go. The organising team together with partners AMD, Armscor, and CAASA, have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring to you an AAD as you best know it.”

Tshwane Executive Mayor Randall Williams said “we are very thrilled to once again be associated with Africa’s only exhibition and air show that showcases aerospace and defence technology. As the city of Tswhane, we believe this event is a real opportunity to demonstrate Tshwane is a great host… We recently we hosted the Aero SA trade show at Wonderboom National Airport, an airport that belongs to the city. The event was a great success and demonstrates the city’s interest in the aviation sector. Such events have a great economic impact and offer job opportunities to residents.”

Michelle Nxumalo, AAD Exhibition Director, told defenceWeb that nearly 70% of exhibition space has been booked out and around 300 companies have signed up to take part in the exhibition. Although this is a slight decline on 2018, it is to be expected given the covid-19 pandemic and other disruptions.

The United States Air Force has committed to coming to the show, while various African countries have been invited, and it is likely that the Zambian and Zimbabwean Air Forces will be in attendance as well as a full South African Police Service contingent.

As in the past, there will be a mobility track for vehicle demonstrations, but new additions to AAD 2022 will be the inclusion of the oil and gas and mining sectors as AAD diversifies. There will also be an African Unity pavilion as well as numerous national pavilions.