P retoria: The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) global market, which is estimated at $14 billion per annum and is dominated by Israel and the US, will soon have a contender in South Africa which will launch its own UAVs by 2012, state-run news agency BuaNews reported.
The Seeker 400 prototype is due to make its maiden flight in early 2012, the defense company Denel Dynamics said in a statement.
“The prototype of Denel Dynamics’ latest UAV, the Seeker 400, has been completed and is due to make its maiden flight in the first quarter of 2012,” said executive manager Tsepo Monaheng.
Benefits of the UAV include helping in national security, crime fighting, disaster management, election monitoring and search and rescue operations.
The Seeker 400, which is deployable in most conditions, is larger and has more capabilities than the previous Seeker II.
It is capable of staying in the air for 16 hours and can simultaneously operate two payloads. It has a range of 250 km but can be extended up to 750 km.
The Seeker 400 flight test program will run for most of 2012, with production expected to start by the end of 2012. It is planned that weapons be added to the aircraft with several countries having already expressed interest in an armed version of the UAV.
“Globally, UAVs are becoming ever more important and more widely used. Although costs are coming down, UAVs are not necessarily cheaper or easier to operate than crewed aircraft – some top-of-the-range UAVs are very expensive. But the fact that they have no human on board means they can be sent into high-risk environments and they can be kept aloft much longer than a conventional aircraft,” the company said.