One of the largest problems with purely mechanical drones is that they are expensive and can be hacked through CogNet snoops and cybernauts. The SAUR found a way to circumvent both of these problems by creating cybernetic augmented genetically engineered condors. The large size of the avian body allowed for a good deal of lightweight cyberware to be fitted to the animal, and the addition of an exocranial cyberdeck (base model, torso mounted) allowed for the large birds to function with a human level of intelligence.
The cyberorganic drones are not classified as sentient beings, as their hardware is rated at sub-sentient is capabilities, and the animal base of the creature is not placed into consideration for sentience testing. This being said, while a good number of the Budiansky drones are indeed non-sentient/non-self aware there is a disturbingly large percentage of the birds that are by all tests and measures intelligent.
Budiansky drones have the same long endurance flight abilities of condors, augmented by special diet and metabolic modifications. Their strength is augmented with biomod muscle enhancement. This helps the bird support the electronics backpack it wears, as well as having a small amount of shrapnel resistant armor plating. The backpack is tied into the bird's central nervous system, and allows the drone to continuously upload data back to the base station.
Recon: the recon pack is a series of cameras and other sensors that are attached to the body harness of the drone, and the bird flies around, following its programmed orders, sending back data.
Spotter: the drone maintains its flight patterns, looking for things for remote fire support units to shoot. The drone uses the bird's senses to bypass electronic countermeasures, and can scent out targets. The SAUR has had a good deal of success with using Budiansky drones to scent out and snipe Federation supersoldier teams on foot.
Search and Rescue: people get lost on the plains, and the drone is a solid hunter seeker that can find wounded people, or lost people and carry medical and emergency supplies, and then relay back information for rescue craft to come and pick the victims up.
The South African United Republics have time and time again been forced to be resourceful with the technology and resources they have. The coalition doesn't always have the ability to throw money and tech at every problem they come across like some other powers do. With the tech advantages of the Atlantic Federation, the drones that the SAUR fielded proved not just worthless, but a liability. Many early drones were hacked by the Federation and ended up not just sending back doctored information, but transmitted vulnerable data from the SAUR back to the hackers who compromised the units.
The use of cyborgs has stymied cybernaut agents, as hacking into an organic brain is dramatically more difficult than just compromising a machine. The functionality of the avian brain further complicates hacking efforts. Once the Budiansky drones started being made, the SAUR was able to solidify their security and intelligence programs.
The Drone was the brainchild of Dr. Francis Budiansky, a bioengineer and geneticist who spent a good deal of his career working with biocreche technologies devoted to restoring the ravaged biosystems of Africa. With the genetic data he had, it was a dream to create militarized African Fauna, and Africanized Fauna. While the ideas of the gun toting rhinos and missile pod loaded elephants were tossed as not feasible, the Condor Drone was snatched up and put into production.
The first generation of Budiansky drones were used for SAUR search and rescue operations, mostly rescuing well heeled would be big game hunters who have gotten separated from their guides. The drones also proved valuable in post disaster rescue efforts. The large birds were able to move without needing ground routes and were competent and capable for finding lost vehicles, survivors who were disoriented and lost.
Later, the Budiansky drone was adopted by the military. It was first used as a scout and recon unit for ground troops. It was popular as the birds developed emotional relationships with the soldiers who used them. The image of the Budiansky drone perched on the arm or shoulder of a SAUR mecha reporting data is now strongly associated with the SAUR Boer Rangers.
Have Drone, Will Travel - The PCs encounter a Budiansky drone that has gone rogue. The bird is sentient and self aware, and more than willing to work as a scout/recon unit for a group of mercenaries other adventurers because it knows if the military gets its hands on it again, they will wipe it's software, and do a mindwipe on the bird to return it to drone status.
Corrupted Data - the PCs are being harassed by an unknown foe, and while they keep checking the electronics, they don't know that they are being ghosted by a massive condor that is regular communication with an elite Seibertronian mecha squad. Good pursuit for a party carrying valuable cargo, or having just pulled off a major shadowrun.
The Blackwings - An entire roost of Budiansky drones have flown the coop and are now operating as a freelance group of spies and data thieves. They rarely interact in person, preferring remote communication, text data or voice only communication.
Point of Inspiration: The first picture in the sub started this submission. Laserbeak was awesome, and seeing the rescue cybercondor made me think of him. Rather than being a seibertronian, the Budianskys are cyborgs, but being based out of animals, they have a similar perspective on humans that machines can have. Sentient Budianskys can be more fun because they are more than aware that humanity has already exterminated their species once in the past.