Rapid redesign makes Gecko a watercraft


A quick reaction task undertaken by the CSIR for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), specifically its Special Forces, has added waterborne rescue to the number of tasks the Gecko vehicle can perform.

The quick reaction tasks have to be completed within 24 to 72 hours and typically require a customised, solid but cost effective solution to address an urgent force deployment need said Klaus Muller, project leader for the CSIR’s technology for special operations team.

Faced with having to rescue flood victims from trees or roofs the SANDF required an easily-deployable means of reaching and transporting people through raging rivers. With the option of re-inventing a new craft not a possibility the CSIR determined ways of turning Gecko vehicles already in use by Special Forces into a waterborne platform.
“Quick reaction tasks are time and mission critical and require extreme agility and innovative thinking. We follow a proper engineering process – but it all has to happen very fast. The needs could vary from creating an object by 3-D printing or adapting existing technologies or weapons to deal with specific situations encountered during operations to applications, such as custom maps on mobile phones. We also do maritime work to support anti-piracy efforts.
“We receive these calls at any time and must be ready to support the Special Operations teams to perform their duties,” Muller said.

Small and agile as its namesake, the Gecko is often used during specialised military operations – including reconnaissance and rescue missions. With a small trailer attached it carries personnel and ammunition or it can be turned into a command and control unit with communications infrastructure.

Both Gecko and trailer can be air-dropped for rapid deployment in all terrain types. The Gecko by itself was not sufficiently buoyant or stable in deeper water and stronger currents.

Investigations were conducted into various means of getting the Gecko “to swim”.

The solution had to be manoeuvrable and strong enough to propel the vehicle and trailer, handle various angles (such as when motoring down a river bank into the water) and be robust enough to carry several people. Numerous computer-aided designs were created and modelled. The final concept comprised a steel frame with several commercial off-the-shelf fenders fitted around the sides of the vehicle. Additional power is provide by an electrical engine fitted on the frame.

In field trials, the number of fenders was alternated to find the best solution – and the best load capacity. The final product has sufficient fenders to carry up to ten adults.