08 September 2014 by Guy Martin - defenceWeb
Paramount Group is investing R100 million in unmanned vehicles with the launch of a new Robotics division, which encompasses unmanned ground, air and sea vehicles.
Discussing the launch of the new entity last week, Ivor Ichikowitz, Executive Chairman of Paramount Group, said that, “The next generation of innovation in the global defence and security sector will be in the Robotics sector. As warfare becomes more complex and the political risk associated with loss of life becomes more sensitive, both sophisticated and developing defence forces alike are investing in reducing the number of soldiers exposed to dangerous environments. In light of this we are pleased to announce the establishment of Paramount Robotic Systems – a consolidation of Paramount’s mission systems, unmanned and robotics capabilities across land, sea and air. This division will consolidate Paramount’s robotics research and development activities as well as the organisations’ current unmanned programmes.”
The Group will invest over R100 million in research and development funding in robotics, “bringing to market some of the most exciting innovations in the autonomous defence space.”
“There is no defence company locally that has a robotics division like ours. We are now focussed on developing unmanned robot systems that take the human element out of the equation. This is a first for Africa and the Southern hemisphere, and we are very excited to be forging the way to making South Africa world leaders in the robotics industry,” said Ichikowitz.
Paramount Group already has a number of unmanned products in its stable. It acquired unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capabilities through the acquisition of Advanced Technologies and Engineering (ATE), now Paramount Advanced Technologies. Its UAV range includes the Civet, Roadrunner rhomboid wing UAV and new Mwari UAV. Paramount has also proposed an AHRLAC 25 unmanned version of its Advanced High-performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft. On the naval side, the company is offering a remotely operated Guardian vessel.
“We are seeing a huge growth in unmanned systems,” Ichikowitz said, adding that, “we have the capability and competence to lead the way.” He said the new Robotics division is a catalyst for a whole range of innovation and that Paramount is working with universities and other institutions in this regard.
Although the research and development investment in robotics comes from Paramount’s own funds, in future the Group will explore co-development with global partners. He said that having no government funding means the company in innovative and able to move fast with projects.
At the same time as the Robotics division was announced, Paramount also revealed it had bought Aerosud Aerospace Systems and Veecraft Marine, further adding to its already diverse capabilities. Ichikowitz said these investments and innovations “are a true testament to the skillset and entrepreneurial spirit of the continent. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary at the same time as South Africa celebrates its 20 years of democracy, we are proud to be recognised as global innovators with world-leading technologies and solutions. The development of the defence industry will go a long way towards creating an indigenous African capability that will deal with threats to the security of the continent.”