The Buzzard system was designed by Kentron, a division of Denel (Pty) Ltd as a low-speed remotely piloted drone system that was designed for facilitating the training and evaluation of crews in surface-to-air weapons operation.  The drone was used to emulate close-in, medium and long-range flight profiles and the close-in maneuvers of attack aircraft.  The drone could also be used to provide a cost-effective, reliable target drone suitable for the development and qualification of selected surface-to-air weapon systems.  Conversion of the system for low-cost RPV surveillance could be achieved by fitting the drone with an observation payload.

The Buzzard system comprises of four drones (with the option of adding an additional two or more) together with an integrated launcher/support trailer, a ground control station and logistic support items.

The drone is a small, delta-wing, pusher propeller-driven vehicle that was launched by means of an elastomeric bungee launcher.  The drone was operated by means of radio control and could accommodate the following selection of target payloads:

  • Infrared and smoke flares
  • Radar Luneberg lens reflector
  • Radar corner reflector
  • Miss-distance indicators

On completion of the exercise, the drone was recovered by parachute.  A crushable skid for impact absorption was attached to the under-belly of the drone thereby eliminating the requirement for a runway to operate the system.

All four drones could be stored in the support trailer that also housed the spares, consumables and other support equipment.  Additional drones were stored in separate containers.  The launcher was integrated with the support trailer with its rail type catapult launcher that was designed to accelerate the drone to take-off speed.  When in operation, the launch rail was inclined to the pre-determined launch angle, the drone was positioned on the launcher dolly that was retained by a release mechanism.  The launcher was then charged by means of an electrical winch.  When the dolly

release mechanism was activated, the dolly accelerated the drone along the launch rail and when it reached the end of the launch rail, the drone separated from the dolly that was retained while the drone continued with its launch climb.

During flight, the drone was controlled from the ground control station that made use of computer-generated displays that included digital maps and waypoint control techniques.  The data was transmitted to and from the drone via a Radio Frequency (RF) link.

Displays in the ground station provided real-time information on the drone’s position that was displayed on a computer-generated map.  The drone position was derived from the onboard global positioning system (GPS) receiver data that was transmitted on the downlink telemetry channel.  Other downlink data included drone altitude, heading, airspeed and altitude.  The drone heading command was derived by the ground control station from the operator-entered waypoint position and the current drone position.  In addition, the operator was able to control the drone airspeed and altitude independently.

The logistic support items was designed to enhance the transportability and support of the target drone system.  A crew of four, consisting of a pilot, a drone-mechanical technician, an electronic technician and a launcher/recovery technician, was required to operate the system.

The basic target drone system could be used for alternative applications such as decoy missions to harass and entice enemy forces, provide general surveillance of enemy territory or to patrol and monitor critical installations, routes and border areas.  
The Kentron Buzzard target drone system provided an extended capability surface-to-air weapons operation training and evaluation system.  The system was exhibited to the international market during the Defence Exposition South Africa (DEXSA) in 1992.  

The Buzzard target drone system has the following performance capabilities:

Speed range: 70 to 180 knots
Communication range: 30 km
Endurance: 1 hour
Flight path accuracy: Better than 500 m
Altitude ceiling: 10 000 ft
Payload capacity: 20 kg