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18 A founding partner and director of UAV & Drone Solutions (UDS), based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Robert Hannaford has had a long and successful involvement in getting UAVs accepted into controlled airspace. It fields a range of vehicles, including the Bat Hawk, which it developed and builds in-house. He learned his engineering skills at university and in several industries, picking up hands-on UAV development and adding specific qualifications later. He was the first pilot to conduct legal beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) remotely piloted air system (RPAS) flights in southern Africa. He spoke to us from UDS’ new r&d facility in Austin, Texas. Initially self-taught through building radio-controlled (RC) helicopters, he later added formal qualifications from the Unmanned Vehicle University, in Phoenix, Arizona. He regards its founder, retired US Air Force Colonel Dr Jerry Le Mieux (who died in 2014), and its chief flight instructor Gene Payson as mentors and sources of inspiration. Working with Otto Werdmuller and George Sayegh, partners at UDS, Hannaford led the development of the Bat Hawk, a small electric UAV with an endurance of about 2.5 hours carrying a thermal imager. This is the mainstay of the company’s services, and the focus of its technical and operational approaches to BVLOS flying in controlled airspace; its creation drew on a very diverse skill set. “My family’s business was plastic injection moulding, and tool and die making, so I was exposed to CNC machine shops from an early age,” he said. “I have always had a set of hybrid skills encompassing design, machining, fabricating, developing electronic hardware, coding applications and embedded devices.” His current role is to steer the technology solutions for the company, which employs about 85 people, and develop new technologies while looking for opportunities in the US market in preparation for commercial BVLOS operations there. He discusses requirements and strategy with his partners almost every day, and the South African workshop manager reports to him. Bat Hawk genesis Development of the Bat Hawk and the solution to flying in controlled airspace stemmed from a request from wildlife services to help detect poachers entering the Kruger National Park and killing rhinos. The requirement was for a UAV with good range and endurance to patrol sections of the border at night. Out of Africa August/September 2018 | Unmanned Systems Technology The co-founder of UDS talks to Peter Donaldson about the inspiration behind the company’s Bat Hawk UAV Built using best-in-class RC components and low-cost easily replaceable wings, UDS’ Bat Hawk is described by Hannaford as an African solution to an African problem