Suc­cess­ful tests pave way for pro­duc­tion of Denel’s New Seeker 400 UAV


Denel’s Seeker 400 un­manned air­craft sys­tem suc­cess­fully com­pleted its first round of flight tests af­ter a three­year de­vel­op­ment process. Tsepo Mon­a­heng, the CEO of Denel Dy­nam­ics, ex­pressed con­fi­dence that pro­duc­tion of the Seeker 400 for clients will start in the sec­ond half of 2014. “This is a re­mark­able achieve­ment for Denel and again con­firms our global lead­er­ship po­si­tion in the de­sign and man­u­fac­tur­ing of UAVS.”

The tests done at the Alka­nt­pan range in the North­ern Cape fo­cused on per­for­mance pa­ram­e­ters. A sec­ond round of tests, due to be con­ducted in March, will de­ter­mine the craft’s pro­duc­tion readi­ness.

The Seeker 400 can be used for a wide range of mil­i­tary and civil­ian mis­sions, in­clud­ing dis­as­ter re­sponse and mar­itime sur­veil­lance. It can stay up in the air for 16 hours at al­ti­tudes of up to 18,000 ft. At typ­i­cal op­er­at­ing al­ti­tudes of be­tween 4,500 and 9,000 ft it is in­vis­i­ble to a per­son on the ground and is ef­fec­tively in­audi­ble at al­ti­tudes higher than 1,000 me­tres above ground.

The Seeker 400 air­craft has a cruis­ing speed of 150 kmph and carry a pay­load of 100 kg. It has a wing­span of 10 me­tres and is launched from con­ven­tional air­fields.

Mon­a­heng said the Seeker 400 has the abil­ity to si­mul­ta­ne­ously carry two dif­fer­ent pay­loads such as an elec­tro-op­ti­cal pay­load and syn­thetic aper­ture radar and a com­pletely dig­i­tal video sys­tem. These pay­loads can be changed over in the field, al­low­ing the Seeker to be tai­lored for dif­fer­ent tac­ti­cal sit­u­a­tions.

The 250-km line-of-sight range can be dou­bled through the de­ploy­ment of a tac­ti­cal ground sta­tion. This en­ables the Seeker 400 to re­lay data to ground sta­tions and field com­man­ders over ex­tended dis­tances.

Mon­a­heng said the Seeker 400 is a high­light in South Africa’s de­vel­op­ment of a lo­cal UAV which started in the mid-1980s. Its fore­run­ner, the Seeker 2, has been de­ployed in op­er­a­tional ser­vice by in­ter­na­tional clients, in­clud­ing in Afghanistan.

The Seeker was also the first UAV in the world cleared for op­er­a­tions in con­trolled airspace when it was de­ployed to mon­i­tor po­ten­tial hotspots dur­ing South Africa’s first demo­cratic elec­tions in 1994.

The Seeker 2 has un­der­gone fur­ther de­vel­op­ments by Denel Dy­nam­ics, and has since re­branded as the Seeker 200, and of­fered to clients who re­quire medium en­durance and dual pay­load ca­pa­bil­ity of­fered by the lat­est ver­sion. SP

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