“The payload is the system. Drones become sub-systems”
18 October, 2022
Thirdeye has shifted its focus from electro-optics for personal weapons into drones and the autonomous vehicles. CEO Lior Segal: “Western armies need robots in order to save human lives”
By: Roni Lifshitz
Thirdeye Systems received a grant of NIS 900,000 from the Israel Innovation Authority and the Ministry of Defense for the development of a Non-GPS based navigation solution, totaling in NIS 1.8 million. Non-GPS based navigation eliminates the dependence on satellite communications and immune to GPS jamming efforts. This is a new market for a company that was known mainly for its electro-optical smart algorithmics.
Lior Segal, CEO and co-founder of the Natanya-based company (in the center of Israel), told Techtime the market is rapidly changing: “In the past, the drone was considered by customers as a ‘main system’. “However, today we see a different approach:, drones are becoming a sub-system within the complete solution. The center of interest has shifted towards the payload. This dramatic change helped us to win a Ministry of Defense NIS 9 million project, in which we take the place of a main contractor.”
Locating people inside buildings
Thirdeye was founded 12 years ago by Lior Segal, the CTO Yoel Motola and the COO Gil Barak. The idea for the company resulted military service were Lior and Yoel took active role in urban warfare events in 2009 in their role as combat infantry officers. Segal: “We started talking about a problem we faced as warriors: how to find out a person inside a room without using a screen. This is how the idea of ‘third eye’ was born: A thermal camera that identifies human beings and provides a silent warning to the warrior. We needed to find a way how to integrate this capability into a compact kit, flashlight-like gadget, placed on the personal weapon.”
With the help of Ministry of Defense Thirdeye had developed its unique algorithm and IR sensors for the warrior personal weapon, which were delivered to IDF special units that immediately put them into operational use. In 2015 it won a NIS 2 million order from the MoD for these systems called Cerberus. However, at that drones began to play a vital role in the civil and military markets, and Thirdeye decided to adjust its technology to be used with drones.
The first product for the new market was Chimera: An electro-optical system that includes a thermal camera, a daylight camera, and people identification algorithmics, enabling identification across wide areas. The system performed its first baptism of fire during Operation Guardian of the Walls in middle of 2021. Segal: “Our main market today is the local market. We collaborate with companies such as Elta Systems, Elbit, Aeronautics and the Israel Aerospace Industries.”
“The company employs fifty employees, with all the development, manufacturing and assembly works done in Israel. Even the AI systems’ database was developed here by us, without using external databases or sub-contractors. Our systems are platform-agnostic and can be installed on any drone – civil or military- as well.”
In April 2021 you went public on TASE. Why?
Segal: “This was our way of bringing funding to the company without being considered as a business partner of any costumer, to avoid deterring other costumers.”
What are your main current projects?
“Several products are currently in transition from R&D to serial production. We develop the Chimera-X to provide wider area grip. It is expected to reach maturation early next year. We are developing a platform for drones’ detection called Medusa and a new system for ground platforms. Unmanned vehicles will be able to use our systems for various missions, such as people tracking an people avoidance to prevent unwanted damages, especially in difficult terrain conditions.”
The core of your market is the military. What are the main trends in this market?
“We believe that Western societies refuse to pay heavy prices in a human’s lives, and therefore the need for autonomous instruments is growing. Western armies need many robotic tools in order to save human lives. The war in Ukraine illustrates how modern warfare turns into a multidimensional warfare: The warrior should be aware to everything that is happening around and above him.”
Translated by P. Ofer