UAVs making non-military headlines


Whether it be crime fighting with the SAP, or saving lives by transporting blood samples from remote clinics, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have made news headlines recently. There is growing awareness of the benefits UAVs present to civilian areas of research, game counting, firefighting and the transportation of medical supplies.

Xhead = Crime fighters

Using defence technology to support communities in a non-military way presents a great opportunity for Denel Dynamics to play its role as a good corporate citizen. With the brainpower of the ‘rocket scientists’ that work within the organisation, there are bound to be some excellent ideas that serve the community. Burt van Staade, Development Manager UAVS at Denel Dynamics, was televised discussing ways in which this technology could enhance the capabilities of the Security Services on SABC 2. The Sunday Times featured UAV Systems Engineer, Peter Muir commenting on how a Denel Dynamics Seeker was used to bust a gang of abalone poachers off the coast of Arniston. The potential of UAVs to support security is undeniable, although Denel Dynamics may be a little ahead of its time in terms of offering the technology to potential customers who need their ground assets in place to fight crime with these ‘robotic eyes’. One thing is certain, times are changing and UAVs are ready, because as one reporter pointed out: ‘South Africans are responsible for making some of the finest tactical UAVs the world has ever seen’.

Xhead = Mini spy plane used to save lives

In what could be an international first, The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) is using mini UAV technology to save lives. The Medic Air courier service transports blood samples from rural clinics to labs in a direct response to the challenges posed by HIV/Aids and tuberculosis epidemics in South Africa.

Known as e-Juba (‘electronic pigeon’ in Zulu), each UAV, weighing 3.5 kg, can carry a load of up to 500 g, delivering 12 specimen jars over a distance of 40 km. They are fitted with GPS navigation technology, autonomous flight controllers and various sensors, enabling e-Juba to launch, fly the pre-programmed routes, and carry out precision autonomous landings.

The NHLS’ UAVs were developed in collaboration with Denel Dynamics, which was involved with the initial proof of concept and technology demonstration.