The Israeli Defense Force’s Shift to Quadcopter Drones

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) turned to quadcopter drones to advance many different programs and corps over the last year. 
By Sephardic News Dec 11, 2016 12:00 AM

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) turned to quadcopter drones to advance many different programs and corps over the last year. Although normally for personal uses by non-military personnel, the IDF found many military uses for the quadcopters.

The Deputy Commander of the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps’ Nitzan Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Ayalon Peretz, commented that, “"The main advantage of quadcopters is their availability. Nowadays, even in ongoing incidents like a shooting attack, we can have a quadcopter in the air within minutes to help locate a terrorist cell that managed to get away, or a terrorist who threw a Molotov cocktail."

Information provided by the drones has so far assisted in the obstruction of attempts at infiltration, in training exercises, to identify the locations of terrorists, in search and rescue missions, and to track down suspects.

The IDF employs the civilian-made quadcopter drones in everyday activities. As do the Special Forces in East Jerusalem and the West bank. They use the Phantom model available in stores for between 3,000 and 5,000 Israeli New Sheqels.

Search and Rescue

Search and rescue efforts put IDF soldiers in dense, heavily populated areas and in dangerous situations to help save a life or recover hazardous materials.

The Home Front Command began using the quadcopters to recover rockets that crashed in vast, expansive areas. The drone significantly reduced the amount of energy and time soldiers devoted to searching for crash sites through Operation Protective Edge.

The head of Home Font Command’s Weapons Department, Major Menachem Friedman hypothesizes that “In the future, we'll also be able to send a quadcopter to locate dangerous materials by 'smelling' them and reporting back on the affected areas.”

In September, the Home Front Command arrived in Tel Aviv to assist with a search and rescue within a collapsed parking garage. They deployed the quadcopter to the hectic scene and it allowed them to create an aerial map of the area. Troops used the video and the map to identify the location of victims trapped in the rubble and facilitate a more efficient rescue.

Major Friedman recounts, “Within minutes, we received an accurate image of the site and used it to analyze the dangerous spots and figure out where we should start and where to send our teams.”

He believes the quadcopters will continue to prove helpful with better advances in technology and design.

"In the future, we'll also receive a quadcopter with a thermal camera that would aid us in locating hot spots—trapped persons near the surface, who are difficult to spot because of the wreckage. There are also several small quadcopters that would be able to operate inside spaces, but we're still testing those."

“We'll also be able to send a quadcopter to locate dangerous materials by 'smelling' them and reporting back on the affected areas.”

Training Troops at Camp Ariel Sharon

The new technologies mean soldiers need training in how to use them appropriately. The City of Training Bases located in the Negev at the IDF’s Camp Arial Sharon houses around 10,000 military personnel in 2,500 dunams. The large complex contains 135 buildings boasting 450 different lecture halls and classrooms.

Placing all the training facilities into one oversized area, rather than spread randomly throughout the entire country, greatly bettered all the IDF’s training programs. The cadets learn, eat, sleep, and relax within the complex’s modern comforts and advanced technologies. They have access to interactive learning tools like 3D presentations and gain hands-on training with the quadcopters and other important equipment.

In August, the IDF used a quadcopter to video record the many buildings within the City of Training Bases, including, The Ordnance Corps School, the Adjutant Corps School, The Education Corps School, The Military Police School, The School for Logistics, and The School for Medicine.

Quadcopters as Training Tools

The IDF records troops training with the quadcopters as well. This aids in both the self-examination and examination by commanders of their soldiers. Filming drills, especially basic combat training, allows commanders to see where their troop’s skills may need improvement and accurate highlight where mistakes occur.

The IDF’s Engineering Corps recently recorded the final basic combat training exercise that lasts for four days in the Jordan Valley’s military restricted areas. The soldiers performed many different types of raids, which the quadcopter documents at multiple angles to provide the most accurate coverage.

The videos showed the training exercises both with and without live fire, inside and outside the structures, the disposal of explosives, treatment of hazardous or dangerous materials, and the outside and assault of terror tunnels.

Mount Dov and the Lebanese Border

The Mount Dov section of the Lebanese Border is known as an extremely common sector for illegal crossings. The Golani Brigade’s 13th Battalion patrols the area and maintains the border. They take the time to conduct training exercise even while patrolling and confronting ambushes.

The Galilee Division of the IDF documented the 13th Battalion’s daily activities, including the important exercises performed to check the troops’ accuracy at the shooting range since they spend many tiring months on duty.

The Caracal Battalion

The Caracal Battalion was the first IDF infantry battalion to accept females for combat soldier training. Level 7 training with the Carcal Battalion, like that of paratroopers and Golani troops, starts near the Sinai border at the training base run by the Givati Brigade.

They recently recorded their final basic training exercise with a quadcopter. They filmed the conquering of a hill, the use of RPG launchers to fire grenades, and flew them over the Nitzana border near Egypt.

The training exercises pitted IDF soldiers against one another, but in a real combat situation, the enemy would most likely be ISIS troops from the Sinai Peninsula.

The Jordan Valley and The Lions of Jordan

The IDF’s Lions of Jordan located in the northern Jordan Valley, which encompasses a large area of randomly placed, individual communities all enclosed by an empty and vast wilderness, face a difficult challenge. The wild area proves difficult to police.

In October, the second mixed battalion conducted their first large-scale combat training. They used quadcopters to document the three operational companies of the Lions of Jordan, also a coed military battalion. The quadcopters recorded their drills that involved simulating the capture of terrorists and settlement infiltrations.

Hindering Palestinian Infiltrators     

The increase in terrorist attacks in Israel follows an increasing trend of Palestinian terrorists illegally crossing the border into the country. The IDF seeks out illegal border crossers and the people who smuggle them in for money with no regard for the person’s intentions once they cross into Israel.

The Yehuda Territorial Brigade used a drone outside Burj, near the Shomria kibbutz across the fence. They identified the perpetrators using the drone’s live video capabilities. They Brigade pursued them until they could be caught and arrested.

The IDF uses the quadcopters on the southern border line separating the two countries near Mount Hebron, where hundreds of illegal Palestinians cross the parts without a finished fence. 

Ending Riots

Controlling riots from the ground can be a difficult and dangerous task for the IDF. Many riots occur in the West Bank and it is necessary for authorities to identify and arrest the riot instigators and others participating in violence.

Recently, commanding officers from the Samaria and Judea Division implemented the use of quadcopters to help with a riot near Ramallah in a Jalazone refugee camp. They wanted to prevent the rioters from entering into the Beit El settlement close by.

The IDF used quadcopters to disperse the rioters and maintain control over the riot and to see the best places to deploy soldiers to effectively quell the riot.

Stopping the Instigators   

Certain areas suffer violent riots on a regular basis in the West Bank like in the Samaria region’s Kafr Qaddum district. Usually, the riots happen on Fridays and deal with conflict between Palestinian and Israeli settlements, including a recent one where a Palestinian village rioted in protest of the appropriation of the main road into their village by the adjacent Kedumim Israeli settlement.

The quadcopters offer the IDF an easy way to identify the primary instigators of the riot. Many times the criminals will hide their faces behind cloth to protect their identity, but the quadcopter inconspicuously follows the instigator as they flee the scene. The quadcopter records their route and their final location to aid in the identification of the suspect and their later prosecution.

The quadcopters also can follow rioters to discover the rubber tire stockpiles they set fire to during the riots.

Creating Safe Paths for Soldiers and Tanks

One of the Nitzan Battalion’s commanders, Captain Itay Haronian, detailed how they use them quadcopter drones for missions, like “before an arrest raid, we scan the suspects' houses with a quadcopter, using the footage to create a three-dimensional image of the area for the troops, marking all obstacles like fences, holes, walls, and possible escape routes.”

Lt. Colonel Aylon Peretz, another commander, also stated that “A moment before forces close in on a suspect's house, the quadcopter scans the area. The quadcopters go between the alleys, clear the area for the soldiers, [and] scan the rooftops for armed men ambushing our forces.”

The IDF’s Armored Corps began to incorporate the quadcopters into training exercises and discovered their practicality quickly. After a substantial drill performed in the Golan Heights recently by the 7th Armored Brigade, Major Omer Binyamin, operations officer of the brigade’s 77th Battalion described their suitability for the armed forces saying, “the quadcopter has an advantage in allowing us to know whether enemy combatants are hiding up ahead. With the quadcopter, we can also see the results of shelling done by the infantry company as well as identify explosives."

The quadcopter offers combat soldiers’ a faster and more straightforward method for gathering information about enemy troops and keeping IDF companies safe.

Tzur - The IDF’s Quadcopter Drone Prototype

Tzur is the IDF’s first attempt at developing a quadcopter drone. They designed Tzur to minimize the danger for army soldiers by carrying logistics equipment and ammunition. It will weigh more than the personal, non-military drones available to the public currently. They weigh about 2.5 kilograms, but Tzur tips the scales at between 10 and 15 kilograms.

The daytime camera focus is still limited in the civilian-grade drones currently in use by IDF and the nighttime focus is even more limited. Their flight range spans 2.5 kilometers and it flies for around 20 minutes.

Tzur will feature the most advanced technology to conduct measurements during the day and the night It will also be quieter, able to fly longer, and at a larger range of 10 kilometers.