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Jan 30, 2009

23/01/2009 (On-The-Air)

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Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Tim Modise speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:

Modise: South Africa’s home-built pilotless aircraft has successfully completed its first flight. Tell me a bit more about this.

Creamer: Yes, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been working on unmanned air vehicles, as we call them UAVs, which are pilotless aircraft. They are doing it mainly for research. It is not a commercial thing.

They have been backed by the Department of Science and Technology with funds. They have succeeded now with their first flight and this was done outside Pretoria, in Centurion.

The idea is that South Africa builds up this hi-tech set of expertise that we have got here, because we have got commercial activity in UAVs and we have got people building these unmanned aircraft and selling and exporting them.

There is a demand building up around the world for unmanned air vehicles. Now, we are building up an expertise in South Africa, through the CSIR, and also at Stellenbosch University, which supplied the auto pilot for this, and then forming a backbone for the commercial activity, which takes place in factories in South Africa.

Modise: South Africa has a unique opportunity to grasp the new-energy nettle and position itself as one of the renewable energy capitals of the world. Where are these opportunities then?

Creamer: These new energy opportunities are now staring us in the face and they have been giving us glimpses for sometime, but it has really been firmed up now with the inaugural speech of President Barack Obama where he is talking about using the wind, sun and soil to feed energy into our cars and factories in a very economic and green way.

South Africa has an opportunity now to get involved in this and as the Minister from Denmark said last week, this is the industrial revolution of the 21st century.

Denmark is putting its money where its mouth is. It has done very well with wind-energy. It is offering us that sort of expertise, so we need to be working very hard on solar-power. We have got the sun and the expertise.

We need to be working on wind power and we have got people who want to help us. We need to be working on landfill sites where we can get energy and mini-hydro power. This is the new energy, this is where we need to go.

Our Minister of Finance, Trevor Manual, is looking for ‘Tips for Trevor’ and this could be a very big tip for him, to now start putting his weight behind renewable energy, which the rest of the world is doing. We know on February 5 South Africans are getting together and they are working on a feed-in tariff.

That means what people will be paid for giving Eskom renewable energy. Already the South African energy regulators seem to be slightly parsimonious, they are not making it as attractive as they could.

Nersa has done a lot of studies in Germany, but of course, Germany is mature area, South Africa is only an infant renewable-energy country, and is perhaps needing a little bit more incentive to come in. The incentives they plan to give at the moment are about paying between 43c and about 75c per kilowatt hour.

That looks a little bit low. Some of the NGOs are saying give us a flat rate of R1,50 per kilowatt hour, and that will really excite the market and get us going.

We want to get people in factories building solar-power sets, wind energy sets, getting the gas out of the landfill sites and building mini-hydro to get into this era of renewable energy, which is not only about being green, but also about creating jobs and wealth.

Modise: A Gauteng company winning a contract to supply 27 South African-designed armoured cars to the Irish Army.

Creamer: This is an incredible company in Benoni, LandSystems OMC. They just win contract after contract. They beat people right around the world with armoured vehicles.

The latest is the Irish. The Irish tested these South African-designed and Benoni-built light tactical armoured vehicles for two months, put them through field tests along with what the Swiss and Italians offered and again, the South Africans come up trumps.

An order for 27 more of the light tactical armoured vehicles placed on LandSystems OMC. This is hundreds of millions of rands every time, we are talking about. Then the Irish said that they will take 27 now and an option for another 27.

The Swedes have just completed an order of 200 of these armoured vehicles from the same company. They have now placed another order for 60 more. We see that we have got a comparative advantage with our armoured vehicles, which are built for peaceful uses.

The Irish intend possibly using these in Chad in Africa, where they are commissioned by the European Union to undertake peacekeeping activities. You can also fit machine guns to these and automatic grenade launching activities.

The big thing is that they protect the people in the vehicles very well from landmines. They have been favoured around the world, as we see another order now from the Irish army.

Modise: So we do definitely have the innovative technological capability in the country that is there for export. Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
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