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UAV "Seeker" Makes Emergency Landing

File photo of the Seeker 2 UAV.

Pretoria, South Africa (SPX) Nov 20, 2005
During a development test flight last week, one of Denel's 'Seeker' unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was damaged in an emergency landing north of Pretoria.

A Board of Inquiry has been convened to establish the cause of the incident and the Civil Aviation Authorities have been notified.

The cause of the accident was identified beyond any doubt within less than 24 hours after the incident and traced to an isolated hardware failure. Corrective actions and extensive testing has also been completed.

The 'Seeker' is a sophisticated unmanned observation and surveillance aircraft developed by Denel Aerospace Systems in Centurion for the local and export markets. Several of these systems are in operation with overseas clients.

Apart from its military reconnaissance role, the 'Seeker' has shown its successful application in search and rescue missions, border patrol, marine resource protection and crime prevention. In 1994 for instance, it was authorised for aerial monitoring above polling stations during South Africa's national elections within controlled airspace.

First indications were that the UAV, accompanied on development flights by a manned aircraft, partially lost engine power some 2,5 hours into the flight. As its flight crew (working from its base station) could not maintain the UAV's height at the time, standard emergency procedures were implemented.

These involved returning the aircraft to base on a glide path using partial engine power, whilst steering it to a safe landing area identified by means of the manned aircraft and the UAV's own on-board systems.

On the landing in a nature reserve near its Ditholo base, the UAV suffered some damage, although the electronic equipment recovered would be useful to aid the investigation. No collateral damage or injuries occurred, the UAV being unmanned.

"We believe the 'Seeker' has a most enviable safety record," said Mr Tsepo Monaheng, head of UAVs at Denel Aerospace Systems. "In more than 15 years

of operating our 'Seeker', we've experienced only three engine related incidents resulting in damage to the UAV. This is outstanding considering the thousands of hours it has flown in that period.

According to Mr Monaheng, Denel remained committed to the highest standards of aviation safety, which was demonstrated in this instance. "We are confident the 'Seeker' would continue as a successful export system for Denel."

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Sanswire Networks Demonstrates Sky Dragon Military Airship
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