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By ARIE EGOZI
The unmanned air systems (UAS) operated by the Israeli air force (IAF) are strained almost to their limits. From mini-UAS like the Skylark operated by the ground forces through the Heron and Hermes-450 and up to the huge Heron TP, the UAS squadrons have been operating “around the clock,” as an industry source involved in the logistics said.
It is now obvious that the UAS will take a major part in any future combat operation that Israel would be involved in. The missions are diversified and some are classified but the UAS have performed a huge number of missions of different types, some under very “tight” conditions.
The IAF has realized some time ago that the increasing use of UAS will demand top availability, and that can be achieved only by taking measures across the board.
This is one reason why the IAF has been developing health management systems for UAS.
The work is being done in the IAF’s Unit 108 which is the “electronic unit” of the force. The unit deals with electronics but it is actually the heart and nerves of all the systems operated by the IAF – manned, unmanned and on the ground.
The fact that more than 50% of IAF operational flight hours are being performed by UAS (in combat the percentage is even higher) has brought to the decision to find a way of predicting malfunctions in the different types of UAS.
Health management systems are used now mainly on commercial aircraft. These are onboard sensors that are installed to measure parameters related to the health of an aircraft.
The IAF lost a number of UAS in recent years. In most cases, mechanical failure was the reason.
As the UAS become bigger and carry a variety of payloads, each crash is a loss of a large sum of money.
The new health systems that are being developed now specifically for UAS are designed to give advance warning about a problem that in most cases is developing from a minor one to a critical one that eventually causes the loss of a UAS.