It looks like a natural step but it it has been on hold for a long time and there are no signs of real change. Unmanned air systems (UAS) look the most natural tools for many HLS missions but in fact they are still in the defense field. To understand the problem we went to talk with the chief of the Israeli police helicopter unit, Commander Nir Rosenthal. His unit operates three Bell-206L Long ranger and three Bell-206B Jet Ranger helicopters. The unit also has one fixed wing light aircraft.
“Israel is a world power in unmanned air systems. Have you considered using these platforms for your missions?” I asked Cdr. Rosental.
“we came to a conclusion, after a very thorough evaluation, that it does not answer our needs. But we are still looking for some unmanned system” Rosental said, adding that the Elbit system SkyLark I , used by the infantry units of the Israeli defence forces (IDF) was evaluated by the Israeli Police.
Commander Rosenthal said that he prefers a larger UAS, not a ‘personal’ one that gives the soldiers the ‘behind the hill’ capability. “Our needs are different than those of an infantry unit. We prefer a larger UAS operated from a base and with the capability to transmit real-time video to anywhere it is needed” Rosental said. Israeli UAS manufacturers will no doubt continue to answer the police air unit needs with a new designs or an adaptation of an existing one. They know that the introduction of a system in the police air unit will enable them to market their systems to other police forces around the world.
There are major obstacles in operating large UAS in support of Police. While the military usually operates UAS over open areas that are often closed to civilian air traffic, the police requires such operations over populated areas. This will immediately affect the price of a flight hour, because it will have to be backed by an adequate insurance in case a civilian is hurt by one of the unmanned platforms. It also requires certification from civil aviation authorities that are not available at this stage. That’s why small UAS or even hovering platforms would be more suitable to support tactical forces, overcoming those limitations.
The Israeli airspace is small and congested. Each of the units’ missions is therefore coordinated with the airforce that actually controls the skies over Israel.