DCD Looks into Drones for Convoy Protection

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DCD Protected Mobility, makers of the widely used Husky land mine detection vehicles at the head of convoys, is considering offering drones as part of its solution.

The company expects the drone addition to its convoy protection solution could be offered to customers in just over 18 months.

Based in Boksburg, DCD operates in the niche defence market of convoy protection. Apart from the Husky, the company also manufactures vehicles with a high level of blast protection for use in convoys for command and transport of supplies.

DCD says it is working on its drone solution with South African companies, which it declined to name.

The company’s research programme to determine how drones will be used and managed is in its early stages. One evolving idea is for drones to fly ahead of a convoy to gain intelligence on changes in the landscape that might pose a security threat. A continuous drone presence transmitting information to a convoy command vehicle could significantly raise situational awareness.

DCD sees the drones being fixed wing craft with take-off and landing capability controlled from a convoy command vehicle. These would be launched and recovered from a convoy support vehicle. Sensors to be offered would be for normal colour, low light, and infrared.

The idea is video of the route obtained by drones would be fed through software to allow past and current imagery to be analysed in real time to determine high threat changes. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are often hidden among piles of garbage by the side of the road. The drones would also be equipped with infrared sensors allowing for detection of possible enemy personnel.

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen a surge in the demand for DCD Protected Mobility vehicles. DCD Defence vehicles are used by 18 countries with the US having bought nearly 1500 vehicles. Most of the other major force contributors to the military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Australia, Canada, France, and the UK use DCD vehicles. In Africa DCD vehicles are used by armed forces in Egypt, Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Militaries fighting insurgencies find it difficult to detect roadside IEDs. Insurgents laying these devices have become increasingly sophisticated in their operations and it has proved difficult to provide hard armour to defend against these devices other than for very heavy MRAPS. The use of drones could provide one level of defence against IEDs. DCD have a number of existing customers to who this solution could be attractive.