Israel’s Drone Industry Transformed Into A Global Force

Drone Drone

In a rigorous battle for market share against world superpowers China and the US, Israel’s drone business likes to mention it’s a secret weapon — military expertise.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used daily by Israel’s military and around its borders, whether dropping tear-gas canisters on Palestinian demonstrators, monitoring Hezbollah positions in Lebanon or striking Islamic Jihad bases in Gaza.

The senior echelons of the country’s industry are populated by former military and intelligence officers, many of whom became founders or engineers in local startups.

Israel’s first rudimentary drone dates back to 1969: it was a remote-controlled  plane with a hooked up camera to spy on neighbouring rival Egypt.

Drones became more common, though much more technically advanced, during the war in Lebanon from 1978.

But half a century later, small Israel is now a worldwide force in the multibillion-dollar UAV business, competitors against China and the North American region.

It trades on its difference product point: enemies at its borders and lots of opportunities to check and fine-tune its UAVs.

Ronen Nadir was a military commander specialising in missile development before establishing his company, BlueBird Aero Systems.

It sells combat drones across the world, as well as the WanderB VTol that soars and lands vertically sort of an eggbeater, but has wings to enhance speed.

These drones will kick off and land in an exceedingly city, a jungle or the deck of a ship.

“You will not believe it, but it took only four and a half months” from the first concept, scribbled on paper, “until this UAV was demonstrated to the first customer,” Mr Nadir said.

“When an American company develops a mini-UAV and then it is used by the Marines in Iraq or Afghanistan, it takes a few years from the development of the system until it is used on the battlefield,” Nadir said.

“In Israel all the people (in the industry) are ex-army soldiers, officers. The engineers who work on the development of the systems are actually operating the UAVs in the (military) reserves, in actual service. Then they come back to the office with actual and real-time feedback.”

Development cycles are short, he said, making certain that Israel is at the “cutting edge” of the industry.

One study usually cited by local authorities place Israel as the world’s largest exporter of drones, but it dates to 2013.

Since then, the US has immensely augmented exports of its global Hawk, the next value and performance drone, likewise as the Predator. These have sold-out notably in European markets, pushing the country sooner than Israel.

China, that offers cheaper, lower-quality solutions, is maybe sooner than Israel currently, usually commercialism to countries and state has no relations with, said Prince Finnegan, director of company analysis at the US firm Teal Group.

“The difficulty with ranking Israeli companies in the market is that they are very secretive over what they are selling and to who, as are the Chinese,” he said.

At a recent conference for Israeli drones at airfield town, AN industrial zone about to the airfield in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, a discreet guest sneaked in: Nadav Argaman, head of the Shin Bet internal intelligence services.

The technology, he said, helped allow Israeli civilians to measure “comfortable daily lives, while not knowing what happens beneath the surface” — or during this case on top of it.

“In order to be alive we have always to be a stage ahead, including in drones,” said Zohar Dvir, the former deputy police chief reported to have inspired the Adam Sandler film “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan”.

“The biggest place for opportunity now is agriculture,” said Ben Alfi from BWR Robotics, which specialises in agricultural drones.

*Based on the insights from The Business Times.