Israeli drone startups gain battlefield experience

Israeli soldier operates drone credit: IDF Spokesperson
Israeli soldier operates drone credit: IDF Spokesperson

New systems are being rushed into operation to enhance Israel's drone and counter-drone capabilities.

The Swords of Iron War, which has now extended past 100 days, is exceptional not only in its duration, its multi-front challenge and the fact that nearly 12,000 rockets have been launched towards Israel (three times as many as in the Second Lebanon War), but also because it has been the first digital war. In this campaign, advanced technologies are used in all the combat arenas, from the tunnels, on the ground and in the air.

This innovation is led by the Ministry of Defense Directorate of Defense R&D (IMOD DDR&D) (MAFAT), which has been significantly boosted since 2016 when Iron Dome developer Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Danny Gold took over as its head. Under his leadership, MAFAT has expanded from an organization working with a small handful of startups, to work with 200 startups today.

At the same time, he has tightened collaboration with researchers at universities. This interface between academia and MAFAT is expressed by the flood of challenges and attempts to solve them through technology or products developed by institutions like the Technion and Tel Aviv University with MAFAT connecting them to companies that develop a prototype ahead of serial production.

This process continues during the war. This is the reason that there are systems and products that may not yet have been used, but within a few months, and in some cases even less, will be implemented in the field.

eVTOL: Airlifting casualties and heavy logistics

One such interesting concept expected to be used in the future is the eVTOL technology of Israeli startup Air EV, based in Emek Hefer.

An eVTOL is an electric aircraft with vertical takeoff capabilities. These aircraft, costing about NIS 100,000, can have many uses in the private sector including aerial photography. On the battlefield it is expected to be used for special missions including airlifting casualties and heavy logistics. Air EV's military eVTOL has not yet been received by the Ministry of Defense and is currently undergoing assembly procedures.

Angry Birds: Taking down drones online

Another fascinating development that could enter operations in the coming weeks is the "Angry Birds" drone made by Omer-based startup Robotican. The Robotican drone throw out a net to ensnare hostile drones.

The aim has been to create a drone that can be used in populated areas, such as villages near a border fence, where neutralizing through explosive means is not appropriate. The drone, which is in final trials in a civilian environment before being implemented, can be launched from the roof of a house to capture the drones.

A main reason why these and other measures are being integrated into Israel's military in the midst of the war stems from the urgent need for innovation, while the Ministry of Defense is not afraid to test significant measures during real-time fighting.

One example of this is the Merkava Barak tank, but there are many others. "While in Israel, for example, one to three interceptions are enough to operate an air defense system, in the US they carry out 100 interceptions," a senior security official tells "Globes." This innovation, of course, has advantages and disadvantages, mainly in terms of economic savings, but one that requires careful examination of whether it comes at the expense of a qualitative examination of the system.

Steadicopter: Unmanned robotics helicopter carrying payloads

An aircraft that has already proving itself on the battlefield is the Steadicopter Black Eagle, developed by Migdal Ha'Emek-based Steadicopter. This is an unmanned robotics helicopter that carries dedicated payloads. The device is operating in the Gaza Strip mainly for intelligence gathering.

XTEND drones with suicide drone potential

The XTEND drone is also being used for the first time in the war. Ground forces can send it into a building to scan the place before troops enter, thus capturing the building with less danger to the forces.

As part of a collaboration between XTEND and the IDF Yiftach unit for the development of special weapons, a warhead has been developed that is mounted on these drones thus transforming them into a weapon (suicide drone). XTEND's main advantage is that it can be activated using reality eyewear and a joystick, making it possible to teach a person to operate it in an extremely short training session.

D-Fend - disrupting drones on a large scale

In view of the drones operated by Hamas and Hezbollah, there is a need to disrupt these devices. On October 7, Hamas sent over dozens of drones. Ra'anana-based D Fend Solutions has developed RF-Cyber counter-drone technology, which is being used for the first time on a massive scale to control the drone threat.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on January 15, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

Israeli soldier operates drone credit: IDF Spokesperson
Israeli soldier operates drone credit: IDF Spokesperson
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