History as South African company launches locally-made survey drone

We know we should have done this a long time ago, but… well… better late than never at all.

We would like to celebrate with South Africa’s Premier Mapping Africa, a mapping and surveying company that recently made history by developing the first ever local vertical take-off and landing mapping drone.

Behold the Cullinan Ximongwe.

The new product has met all tests and been approved to fly by the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

There are two versions of the Cullinan drone actually – the P290e and the P400e. The latter is 1,900mm long, has a wingspan of 4,000mm and weighs 16kg without batteries or a payload. Aside from the fixed wings, the drone also has muIti-rotors, which enables it to take off and land vertically  

The new drone can carry a payload worth 2kg and its maximum take-off weight is 33kg.

With that weight, the drone can fly for a maximum of 180km at speeds that can reach 80km/hour. On a single charge, the Cullinan can fly for 180 minutes; but it has an option to run on fuel, which will extend its endurance in the air to 480 minutes.

“After more than a year of planning and strategizing, our in-house built drones have had a successful demonstration with the CAA,” Premier mapping said in a social media post to celebrate the historical milestone. “Roland (Suhrmuller, RPAS Quality Assistant and Maintenance Controller), Andrew (Donald, Survey Manager), Robin (Kock, Executive Director) and everyone else from Premier Mapping Africa involved… thank you.

“A very special thanks to our Aviation consultants for the hard work behind the scenes; Sonet Rossouw from Avicomply and Sam Twala from NTSU Aviation Solutions.”

Indeed, Premier Mapping consulted Avicomply and Ntsu Aviation, which helped with insights on getting their drone set up so it satisfied the requirements of the national regulator. The CAA certification saw the Cullinan being added to Premier mapping Africa’s fleet of aerial survey aircraft, which the company offers from planning stages to execution and final delivery of survey grade data.

The company is licensed to offer aerial survey services using full sized aircraft as well as drones. It also holds an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) for manned aerial surveys and an RPAS Operator Certificate (ROC) for RPAS Aerial Photography, Surveys and Industrial Inspections.

With the right payload, the Cullinan can carry out high- and low-level aerial surveys, as well as open pit and stockpile surveys.

According to Ntsu Aviation, the Cullinan leapfrogs the South African drone industry further and takes it safely to new heights.

“No doubt DJI is the largest multirotor manufacturer in the world,” Ntsu Aviation wrote on their congratulatory post. “With that being said, the other segment of drone manufacturing that has been growing steadily for years and continues to grow is Vertical and Take-off and Landing (VTOL).

“As it is common knowledge by now, a VTOL drone is a hybrid between multirotor and fixed-wing offering benefits of both types.

“It is a no brainer that as a drone manufacturer this type of drone has a bright future in the drone industry. This is a gap in the market that Premier Aviation started exploring a few years ago, when they couldn’t find an affordable and suitable VTOL drone packed with technological capabilities. They pounced on the opportunity and it led to them being one step ahead of the drone industry.

“With support and assistance of Ntsu Aviation Solutions Avicomply, Premier Mapping Africa designed and manufactured two VTOL models (Cullinan P290e and P400e) and made successful demonstrations to the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

“Some of the capabilities demonstrated to the CAA included:

  • 10 km range
  • 1000 ft. AGL
  • Detect and avoid capability (successfully tested with Jabiru manned aircraft)

“This was a collaborative effort between Premier Mapping Africa (PTY) LTD, Ntsu Aviation Solutions (Pty) Ltd and AVICOMPLY. Thank you to everyone who was involved to make this a success.”

For sure, congratulations are in order all around, and we hope the new product stands its own on the market and takes the industry further.

The Cullinan is now available for purchase or lease.


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