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