This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
Despite their proven capabilities, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for assistance in locating and extinguishing fires has not yet been considered seriously.
“Israel has the best technology in the world but the decision makers do not know how to exploit it,” a source at the defense industries said yesterday.
This issue was first raised after the Great Fire on the Carmel Mountain in 2010. According to the unnamed source, firefighting authorities had suggested the use of unmanned aircraft for early detection of fires long ago but nothing has ever come of it. Israeli companies have recently offered really small UAVs to several countries including the U.S. for the purpose of detecting forest fires early. “Our technology is the best in the world but it is not being used at home,” he said adding an old Hebrew saying relating to ‘the shoe-maker who walks bare-foot’.
It became known following the huge fire on the Carmel Mountain that an urgent contact had been received from the firefighting services requesting the operation of a UAV for monitoring fire sources. At that time Israel Aerospace Industries was conducting test flights of the ‘Heron’ Model UAV in nearby Ein Shemer. The UAV operators immediately turned the UAV toward Mount Carmel assisting the forward command room in locating new flashpoints and tracking the movement of another fire regarding wind direction.
Israeli companies now manufacture small Micro-UAVs operated by a single soldier on the battlefield offering the ability to see ‘over a hill’. Defense industry experts have stated that each regional firefighting force should have that type of UAV that can be operated to track signs of fire or suspected fire. “This unit is operated simply with launch accomplished by movement of the operator’s hand. Existing technologies have proved their effectiveness, and there is no reason for the Israel Emergency agencies not to use them,” added the source.
The IAI’s UAV also provided vital information during that night when no manned aircraft were allowed to fly over the Mount Carmel fire due to safety considerations.