The MandelaUni Autonomous Operations Group (MAO) was established as a subgroup of AMTC at Nelson Mandela University in September 2017 to focus on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.

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Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) are rapidly gaining prominence in the globe beyond the military circuit.  In recent times, the civilian community has started developing and making use of drones to carry out tasks such as surveying of farm lands (plantation), for delivery of parcels, monitoring and counting of wildlife and livestock, geographical mapping, search and rescue operations, monitoring pipelines, road patrol and for general commercial photography and motion picture film making.

There are numerous opportunities for drone operations at the Nelson Mandela University, both operationally and for research, however the operation of RPAS requires careful legal consideration and control. In this regard the MOA was formed to:

  • Establish A Central Hub to Manage Airborne Operations at Nelson Mandela University: Manage the RPAS Operating Certificate and airborne platforms for use by all researchers.
  • Training And Research Hub: Central learning incubator for post graduate students. Equipment and expertise are available including commercial pilots, instructors, and aircraft designers to fast track airborne system development. Students can focus on research and not the often-time-consuming fabrication.
  • Development of Airborne Test Platforms: Multirotor and fixed wing platform design and manufacture: University researchers in disciplines other than autonomous operations research require bespoke airborne platforms for data gathering, survey and sensor deployment. MAO can offer solutions from the need’s analysis stage to final fabrication.

The Mandela Uni Airborne Operations (MAO) Group was established by Karl du Preez, Prof Russell Phillips and Damian Mooney of AMTC who collectively brought with them expertise in:

  • Aeronautical design – large scale 
  • Rapid prototyping and manufacturing
  • Large scale 3D printing
  • Composite fabrication
  • Flight test programs

MAO Team


















fltr:  Founding members: Karl du Preez, Prof Russell Phillips and Damian Mooney 




Contact information
Mr Karl du Preez
Principal Lecturer
Tel: 27 41 504 3644

Prof Russell Phillips
Tel: 27 41 504 3609