GDF to benefit from $180M high-tech, long-endurance drones

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The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) is set to benefit from five high-tech, long-endurance drones to the tune of $180M, which will significantly enhance the security of the country’s borders, maritime space and coastland.

Minister of State Dawn Hastings-Williams on Wednesday attended a demonstration exercise of one of the drones, at the GDF’s Base Camp Ayanganna Headquarters, to get a first-hand look at it and to learn about its capabilities.

The Minister was accompanied by Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan and Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams.

The drones were catered for in the 2019 National Budget and would be funded through the $14 billion, which was allocated to the GDF.

In January 2019, President Granger had indicated that some of the money allocated to the Force would be used to purchase drones for border and other types of surveillance.

Minister Hastings-Williams said the procurement proposal was taken to the Defence Board and then to Cabinet for perusal. Cabinet had mandated that a demonstration of the drones be done before they are purchased. Since the demonstration was completed today, this will now pave the way for the purchase of the drones.

“Today we were exposed to what the drone can actually do [and the functions it can perform] and we are impressed. We believe that it can enhance the operations of the Army and I am happy that the Force will now be more equipped to perform its functions.

“We will purchase the drones to the cost of about $180M. The Commander in Chief would have spoken in the past about ensuring [that] both the Defence and Police Forces are equipped and provided with the necessary resources and so today is a demonstration of the President’s commitment to improving the security forces,” she said.

From left: Mr. Brian Maxwell, Skyfront; Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan, Attorney General Basil Williams, Minister of State Dawn Hastings- Williams, Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Patrick West; Tory Mestler, Chief Executive Officer, Skyfront; Rashleigh Bentick from the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority and Mr. Joseph Segura- Conn, Skyfront. [Ministry of the Presidency photo]
Meanwhile, Chief of Staff of the GDF Brigadier Patrick West said the acquisition of the drones will significantly enable the Force to fulfil its functions and mandate, particularly as it works towards effective transformation for total national defence.

“Based on that programme, we have the acquisition of technology to enhance communication and to ensure that we can improve security as well. We are happy that the Defence Board did approve of this acquisition and that the demonstration was successful.

“It will be used not only to patrol our porous borders, but we will also be able to monitor close shore and we would be able to do some amount of anti-piracy patrols as well.

“Further, we will be able to do some patrols in the Georgetown Harbour, the Essequibo and Berbice river mouths. We will also be able to do Coastal patrols as well and some degree of urban patrols in some towns, Linden, Mahdia and in the interior locations,” he said.

Brigadier West also said the drones will assist the Force in monitoring activities in Upper Takutu- Upper Essequibo (Region Nine) where numerous illegal airstrips and abandoned planes were discovered in recent years.

“It will also support the whole SmartCity Solutions as well because wherever there are blind spots in the system, the drones will be able to pick up there,” he said.

Additionally, Commander of Signal Corps of the GDF, Lieutenant Colonel Roger Nurse, said the purchase also caters for training, capacity building and knowledge transfer.

“As part of the acquisition, training is part of the package. As a policy in the GDF, as part of the acquisition of specialised equipment, we generally want to have three crews trained in its operation. There is no exception in this case. So we are looking to have three crews or about 12 persons to operate the equipment as well as provide transfer of knowledge and sister agencies as well,” he said.

Commander Nurse further noted that the drones are long endurance and can last for as long as five hours while the cameras attached to the drones can be used in daytime and nighttime situations as well as search and rescue operations.

“One of the major considerations we have been looking at is its endurance and the time it can fly for. This is a world-leading drone and can fly for about 5 hours without payload. With payload, it can fly between 2 to 4 hours.

“In addition to that, it has the ability to manoeuvre small spaces, ability to hover, track targets and so these were some of the considerations we looked at. Then there is also the technology on the drones like collision avoidance.

“The cameras are also high quality so we will be able to pick up targets from long distances and we would be able to pick up targets using infrared technology so we can use it in the nights as well. For search and rescue, we can pick up persons in the water and that’s just some of the capabilities of the cameras,” Commander Nurse explained.

Colonel Godfrey Bess, Quarter Master General of the Force, who was integrally involved in the procurement of the drones, said Guyanese can be assured that the drones are top quality since extensive research was conducted before the proposal was put forward.

He also noted that the Force will be engaged in a contractual agreement with the company, Skyfront, which will see it addressing any faults with the drones in a timely manner. (Extracted and modified from Ministry of the Presidency)

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