Capsule-Launched Drone, AR Headset, and Aircraft-Drone Hybrid

Capsule-Launched Drone, AR Headset, and Aircraft-Drone Hybrid

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Drone Startups Operationally Tested by IDF Unveiled

Lt. Col. Menahem Landau, Head of UAV and Drone Branch, R&D Unit, MAFAT, IMoD, has unveiled the startups currently examined for operational use during the iHLS AUS&R 2020 Unmanned Systems broadcast. 

The unmanned systems have become a force multiplier for the combatants in the field. The ability to see a full image of the situation – surveillance and intelligence gathering – is an essential tool in the hands of the combating force. Israel’s defense industries have been focusing on the development of the technology in this field, however, they too understand that the technologies in the civilian arena are more advanced.

Lt. Col. Landau: “Drones are developing in the civilian environment at a greater rate than in the military arena. In MAFAT we have decided to ride the wave and harness civilian technologies of interest for the benefit of the defense arena.

We have chosen to focus on several young startup companies and invest in them, similar to a VC. The same as in the civilian society, the VC invests for “exit”, we too are interested in a defense “exit” – the integration of the system into operational use. We are looking for low-cost, agile and innovative technology that will serve as many soldiers as possible.”

The startup company SPEAR is one of the companies currently advanced by MAFAT. The company has developed a technology that provides the combatant observation or intelligence gathering capabilities through a real-time drone everywhere and anytime. The drones are stored in a capsule carried on the combatant’s back. At the right time, the combatant takes out the capsule, launches it from a weapon such as a 40mm launcher, the drone reaches the predefined point and accomplishes the mission for the forces in the field. According to Lt. Col. Landau, “MAFAT has been currently examining this technology, which enables the soldier to launch the drone from any point and receive what he needs in real-time.” Lt. Gen. Landau evaluates that the technology will be integrated into widespread IDF activities and provide added value to the forces in the field.

Landau also revealed that the IDF has been using AR technologies in order to provide the soldier in the field with full situational awareness. XTend has developed an AR glasses technology that enables the combatant to see what the drone sees. Lt. Col. Landau: “Inspired by gaming, the technology enables simple and intuitive operation. It enables us to see inside structures, eliminates EODs, etc. without endangering human lives. It is a groundbreaking product from the technological aspect and we are evaluating its integration in the various military units.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the technology was tested for delivering medical and food supplies to COVID-19 patients. 

Colugo is another company advanced currently, it is developing a VTOL UAV, and as Lt. Col. Landau says the company is trying to get the best of both worlds: “vertical take-off and landing, with a free aircraft wing. As the UAV completes take-off as a drone it starts flying like an aircraft. You get both operational capabilities – and still, the system is tactical, simple and cheap. This allows you to accomplish longer-range missions, longer endurance of an hour and a half. As opposed to ordinary drones that don’t exceed 50 minute endurance. Of course, the UAV can be enlarged and then carry heavier loads.”

According to Lt. Col. Landau, “we would like to put the product in a box and launch to the mission. If you have to secure a site – the drone-in-a-box takes off, accomplishes its mission and returns back.”

Lt. Col. Landau added that within the next few days, a drone challenge open to the public will start, with dozens of participants. “During the last few months, we have built an indoor drone challenge. We are looking for indoor drone-based capabilities and technologies. We have built a scenario with a different “surprise” in each room. The participant will have to cope with the challenge and tell us, outside, what is inside and supply any information that can help the combatant prior to his entrance to the building, to know what is awaiting there.”

Lt. Col. Landau said the competition was designed to give a “kick” to the capabilities and accelerate responses. “We have decided to open it to the world and we’re waiting to see the surprises. Interesting solutions will be further developed.”