Cape Town firm paves way into SA's manufacturing of defensive and reconnaissance drones

Milkor Launches a Breakthrough for Reconnaissance and Surveillance with Home Grown and Cutting Edge technology in the Milkor 380. Picture supplied

Milkor Launches a Breakthrough for Reconnaissance and Surveillance with Home Grown and Cutting Edge technology in the Milkor 380. Picture supplied

Published Dec 22, 2022


Cape Town - Cape Town-based defence and aerospace company Milkor is paving the way for SA’s entry into the competitive drone warfare technological race with the launch of the Milkor 380 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the largest such aircraft to be developed in Africa.

Milkor marketing communications director Daniel du Plessis said: “It is quite a significant feat because it is a fully home-grown, in-house developed UAV system of this size. It’s also the largest one to ever be produced on the African continent.”

He said the Milkor 380 was undergoing its final flight testing qualification stages, and after that, they would start with weapon integration and sensory integration so that it was available for both civilian and military use.

“We work with some of the top 10 percentile from various universities in engineering in South Africa. We recruit some of the engineers from Wits, Stellenbosch, University of Pretoria, UJ, and UCT.”

He said their engineers typically have degrees in mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering, hardware and software development of various types, as well as system engineering.

Du Plessis said the UAV was built for use across different governmental sectors to combat existing issues in South Africa, such as porous borders, conservation efforts and operations in peacekeeping missions.

“Our short-term goal with this UAV system is to work closely with the Department of Defence, Armscor and the SAAF, and we are speaking to them on a regular basis to tailor-make the requirements specifications of this UAV to meet their immediate needs.”

Du Plessis said that with its 10 000 square metre manufacturing facility in Cape Town, Milkor would further build on local defence capabilities and continue to make the Milkor 380 available to the South African government.

This is the first UAV of this size to be fully developed (hardware, software and testing) and manufactured in South Africa.

It is capable of 35 hours of flight time and the ability to carry up to 210 kg of external payloads for various types of sensors.

The Milkor 380 can be used across multiple sectors to combat existing issues in border security, maritime surveillance, conservation efforts and other reconnaissance operations throughout the country.

Du Plessis said: “The production of the Milkor 380 UAV allows the South African government to become completely self-reliant in reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence operations, eliminating the need for foreign acquisition of such systems.

Speaking at the recent Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition where the technology was unveiled, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise said the country’s defence industry had great potential to be a formidable competitor on the global stage.

She said the 2020 National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) Annual Report had shown that between January 1 and December 31, 2020, South African defence companies received orders for either equipment, services or other expertise from 106 foreign countries.

“This could have been more, but for our adherence to the guidelines and the convention on arms sales.”

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