After less than four years of development, this groundbreaking drone took its maiden flight just a month ago and is currently undergoing rigorous testing at the military testing grounds in the Western Cape.
With a team of over 500 employees, 80% of whom are engineers, Milkor has made remarkable strides in the development of the Milkor 380, emphasizing the country’s significant capabilities in the aerospace industry.
Niel du Plessis, Head of Business Development at Milkor, affirmed South Africa’s status as one of the few countries with the capacity to build drones of this size for military applications.
Du Plessis praised the company’s ability to assemble the right team for this project, emphasizing their dedication to developing and integrating the complex components required for the Milkor 380.
The project involved both young engineers and experienced mentors working together to bring this innovation to life.
The development of the Milkor 380 was carried out in South Africa, with most of the manufacturing taking place in Cape Town.
The Milkor 380 boasts an impressive wingspan of 18.6 meters and has a non-stop flight capability of up to 35 hours, covering a range of 2,000 kilometers at a maximum altitude of 9,000 meters.
Operated by a team of three – typically a pilot, payload operator, and commander – it comes equipped with high-resolution infrared cameras, making it suitable for day and night observations.
The operator can zoom in to achieve a clearer view, with real-time data being sent to the control room.
Size is a critical factor in drone capabilities, as it determines the equipment that the aircraft can carry.
Du Plessis explains, “Some of the sensors are heavy. A bigger aircraft can carry more sensors and even weapons.”
The Milkor 380 can be deployed for a variety of purposes, including observation, intelligence gathering, reconnaissance, and attack missions.
Its applications encompass border control, conservation efforts, anti-poaching operations on land and at sea, and safeguarding assets such as oil and gas rigs.
Milkor markets the Milkor 380 as a comprehensive system, which includes the unmanned aircraft, a control room, maintenance programs, logistical support for spares and fuel, and training programs that can extend up to a year for operators.
Moreover, it offers infrastructure for land-based and satellite communication.
While the company does not disclose the specific price tag, it depends on the client’s specifications.
Du Plessis indicates that the cost will run into hundreds of millions of rands.
Milkor 380 good for African defense?
Milkor is currently in discussions with potential buyers, and the successful unveiling of the Milkor 380 is set to strengthen their position in the market especially the African one.
Additionally, the South African National Defence Force is considering the Milkor 380, pending the results of highly regulated tests conducted in collaboration with the South African Air Force.
Du Plessis believes that the components and systems developed for a project of this magnitude have numerous applications, making it a catalyst for technological development across various domains.
The Milkor 380 represents a significant step forward in the African aerospace and defense sector, establishing South Africa as a key player in this innovative field.
In a relatively short period, Milkor’s dedication and expertise have resulted in the birth of the Milkor 380, a remarkable achievement in aerospace technology that has broad implications for the future of military and civilian drone applications.