Israeli drone manufacturer Robotican has has successfully conducted an autonomous drone interception demonstration for the U.S. Department of Defense Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate (IWTSD), which one of its missions is to identify capabilities and technologies to struggle against irregular threats.
Main goal of the demonstration was to test Goshawk’s ability to capture hostile drones penetrated into a no-fly zone. After identifying the target by the Radar systems, Goshawk autonomously performs its mission – from launch to landing. Complex scenarios were also examined at this demonstration, to include chasing hostile drone and challenging head-on engagement. Robotican says that its Goshawk has successfully withstood the missions and was able to capture the hostile drones and to deliver them to a predefined area for safe disposal – with no collateral damage.
Goshawk is an autonomous drone, able to capture hostile drones through designated net. Goshawk interfaces with existing aerial defense systems and launches toward a target drone from the Smart NEST launch pad composed of two drone trappers. As opposed to other solutions, like weapon interception or GPS signal disruption, Goshawk captures and carries the drone intact. After capturing the hostile drone in the net, it is delivered to a safe area, preventing collateral damage that may be caused by potential drone falling, and also provides the ability to investigate the enemy’s drone. According to Robotican, Goshawk performed around 680 documented aerial interceptions of drones.
Seeing the increasing use of drones by hostile groups, as the few weeks ago attack on a merchant ship in Oman bay, the American Department of Defense set the struggle against drones’ threat higher in its priority list. Nowadays, it formulates a comprehensive defense plan from drones and C-sUAS, based on various detection and interception technologies in complex scenarios. In last January the DoD announced new strategy which calls for risk-based assessments and viewing counter-sUAS defense from a joint perspective to rapidly track, defend and defeat drone attacks. Part of this strategy is the procurement and integration of various tools to cope with the drones’ threat, also evaluating that the next years’ budgets for this purpose will increased. Past publications mentioned that Israeli technologies are being examined as part of in these efforts.
In February 2020, the US Department of Defense’ Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate (IWTSD) selected SMART SHOOTER, a world-class designer, developer, and manufacturer of innovative fire control systems, to develop the solution for its Individual Weapon Overmatch Optic (IWOO) project.
Last November, SMART SHOOTER reached an important milestone in successfully completing the IWOO Critical Design Review. This means the IWOO design has been approved by IWTSD and will now move to prototype production with delivery of the first functional system next Fall.
The IWOO program was initiated by IWTSD to provide tactical operators overmatch capability against long range static and moving targets, both day and night. SMART SHOOTER won the competition and began development using proven technologies from its SMASH line of Fire Control optics and inserting new capabilities such as a variable x1- x8 zoom – all stitched together with combat-proven fire control algorithms to assure the hit.
The IWOO system automatically detects, highlights, and tracks potential targets – including drones – using a see-through display which enhances the user situational awareness. Built-in fire control processing continuously calculates the optimal firing solution to provide the user with clear, discreet guidance, firing only with the best chance of neutralizing the target, delivering first-round hit capabilities time after time.
“We value this important opportunity to partner with IWTSD to develop the IWOO system, and are honored to provide operators with an unmatched optic capability against modern threats and the types of terrorist attacks that we are increasingly seeing on streets and battlefields around the world” Ms. Michal Mor, CEO of SMART SHOOTER said.
“We are very pleased with the progress SMART SHOOTER has made with the IWOO design” said Michael Trexler, Special Operation Forces Combat Support Coordinator / Program Manager, at IWTSD. “We look forward to conducting operational testing and evaluation using the dual-capabilities of IWOO prototypes in 2021 against ground targets at increased ranges and to take-down drones.”
one shot – one hit
SMART SHOOTER is a world-class designer, developer, and manufacturer of innovative fire control systems that significantly increase the accuracy and lethality of small arms. With a rich record in designing unique solutions for the warfighter, SMART SHOOTER technology enhances mission effectiveness through the ability to accurately engage and eliminate ground, aerial, static or moving targets during both day and night operations.
Designed to help military and law enforcement professionals swiftly and accurately neutralize their targets, the company’s combat-proven SMASH Family of Fire Control Systems increase assault rifle lethality while keeping friendly forces safe and reducing collateral damage. With a unique technology that makes it possible for every battlefield element to be connected with every other battlefield element, SMASH creates a micro-tactical network that dramatically enhances real-time situational awareness and ensures that the entire platoon shares a common operational picture.
The company’s experienced team of engineers combine electro-optics, computer vision technologies, real-time embedded software, ergonomics, and system engineering to provide cost-effective and easy-to-use solutions for modern conflicts.
Fielded and operational, Smart Shooter SMASH family of solutions provides end-users with a “One Shot – One Hit” capability across multiple mission areas, creating a significant advantage for the infantry soldier and ultimately revolutionizing the world of small arms and optics.
Above: A Dutch soldier during the drills. Source: Dutch Ministry of Defence
The US Army and the Royal Netherlands Army recently conducted live trainings examining the Smash 2000 Fire Control System of Smart Shooter from Kibbutz Yagur (near Haifa). The system is mounted on small arms, and zeroes in on the target using AI-based image processing to assist the soldier to shoot more accurately. The US Army tested the system by firing on ground targets, while the Dutch army tested its drone-interception capabilities using small arms. Both armies characterized the exercises as successful.
The Dutch exercise was carried out at a military facility in the town of Harde (Netherlands), with the participation of combat soldiers from the air force, navy, and the special forces. As part of the exercise, they were equipped with Colt rifles which were outfitted with Smart Shooter’s Fire Control System, in order to test whether it allows infantry soldiers to eliminate low flying drones using their personal weapons.
The soldiers fired at drones of various types and sizes from a distance of up to 165 yards. The company stated that all targets were eliminated. The Dutch Ministry of Defence has also issued an official announcement about the experiment, seemingly hinting at the strategic importance it assigns to the system. Smart Shooter estimated that the success of the two trials constitutes a significant milestone in introducing the solution to the world’s leading armies.
Small arms take down a drone
Dr. Abraham Mazor, VP of Marketing and Development at Smart Shooter, told Techtime that the exercise is the result of four years of working together with the Dutch army. “The Dutch army has examined the functioning of the system in its operational scenarios and in accordance with the threats it faces. The exercise was defined as a success according to the criteria they set. I believe it will lead to the acquisition of the system”. According to Mazor, “The simplicity of the system stood out no less than its accuracy. The soldiers arrived without prior experience, and after a short instruction of several minutes were able to take down drones.”
Drone interception using small arms is one of the key scenarios which interest armies around the world. Recently, the US Department of Defense (DoD) incorporated the system in the Counter Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-sUAS) program. Mazor: “Our system provides a response to this new kind of threat. There are many systems that know how to take care of drones. However, there is no system that allows a soldier to independently intercept a drone without supporting systems such as a remote radar.”
“The existing systems are based on disrupting drones by electronic means. In the future, drones will be autonomous, without a communication unit or GPS, and in a formation of a drone fleet, and therefore electronic warfare will be less effective. Militaries understand that, and some are considering the possibility that in every combat platoon there will be a trained soldier who can intercept drones.”
The rifle ceases to be a “Statistical Weapon”
Smart Shooter was founded by two former members of Rafael’s missile division, CEO Michal Mor and CTO Avshalom Erlich. It has developed the Smash Fire Control System to be mounted on top of every assault rifle using a rail. The system zeroes in on the target using electro-optical sensors and monitors it using AI-based image processing algorithm.
An automatic tracking allows the soldier to aim effortlessly, and when the weapon is positioned at the right angle – the trigger is released automatically. Mazor: “Smart Fire Control Systems will become an integral element in all modern combat perceptions. The rifle cannot continue to remain a statistical weapon. We upgrade the level of infantrymen to the world of missiles: at the technological level, in the perception, and in production and assembly.”
Jumping targets within 440 yards
The exercise conducted by the United States Army took place during September 14-24 at the APG training facility in Aberdeen, Maryland. During the exercise, the soldiers were equipped with assault rifles which were outfitted with Smart Shooter’s Fire Control System and fired thousands of magazines at stationary, moving, and jumping targets at ranges of 25-440 yards. At the end of the exercise, the accuracy rates were compared to those typical of using standard sights.
The exercise was funded and supervised by the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. Smart Shooter is currently active in about 15 countries, mostly through subsidiaries or local representatives (in the US and Germany), as well as through collaborations with security contractors such as Thales in Australia, TBM in the Netherlands, and Opto S&D of the Akaer Group in Brazil. “We are in the midst of a very extensive marketing activity, which includes demonstrations and procurements.”
The U.S. Department of Defense decided to launch an operational pilot program for the testing and validating of the Sparrowhawk drone system’s capabilities in the defense of U.S. Special Forces. As part of the pilot program, several dozen Sparrowhawk systems will be employed by U.S. troops.
Using an AR device and single-handed controller, a military operator may employ the Sparrowhawk system to control the drone and perform complex tasks remotely. Its interface enables the operator to immerse themselves or “step into” a remote reality and engage targets effectively yet safely. The system’s capabilities have been demonstrated in Israel. It is a combat proven solution with more than 2,500 confirmed interceptions of incendiary devices flown over the Gaza border by terrorist organizations.
Aviv Shapira, XTEND CEO, said that Sparrowhawk is one of the world’s most advanced C-UAS Hard Kill solution. The system is based on the company’s Skylord platform, which consists of sensors on board the drone, camera, intuitive remote control unit, dedicates SoC, and XTEND’s own Drone Operating System (now in patent application process). Founded in 2018, the people behind XTEND are founders and veterans of Replay Technologies, acquired by Intel in 2016 and is now the corner stone of Intel Sports Group.
Above: Brazilian Aviation inspectors inspect Speedbird’s drone and the Para-Zero’s parachute
The Brazilian Speedbird Aero has received approval from the National Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil to operate delivery drones in two experimental routes in Sao Paulo. Speedbird’s drones are equipped with the safety system of the Israel based Para-Zero, which includes a parachute and a control system that ensure a safe landing of the drone in cases of loss of control, malfunction or collision. As part of the approval process, the Brazilian Aviation Authority conducted tests designed to ensure the safety of operating Speedbird drones in crowded urban areas.
The pilot is expected to begin in December 2020. One of the routes is about a mile long and the drones will fly in it beyond the operator’s line of sight. Lately, Para-Zero’s customers have been granted flight permits by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to fly autonomous, remotely controlled drones beyond the operator’s line of sight. In addition, Hensel Phelps, one of the largest construction companies in the United States, received a permit to fly drones over crowds of people, as part of its employment of drones over construction sites during working hours.
Para-Zero’s system includes two main components: An autonomous control system that can detect emergencies in which the drone loses control, whether due to a malfunction, collision, or weather conditions, as well as due to deviating from the area allowed for flight. In such cases, the system takes control of the drone and shuts down the motor in order to prevent dangerous damage to power cables or people. Following this, the system activates the parachute, which allows for a slow and controlled landing on the ground.
Para-Zero was founded in 2012 by Brigadier General (Res.) Eden Atias, a former pilot and squadron commander in the Israeli Air Force; Amir Tsaliah, who serves as the company’s chief science officer; and Oren Aviram, who serves as the company’s VP of marketing. The company says its system can ensure the safe landing of both a drone hovering at low altitudes of 6.5 feet, as well as heavyweight drones, that weigh up to 730 lbs and hover at an altitude of over 30 feet.
Duke Robotics was merged into the UAS Drone Corp. (OTC: USDR), and is now a publicly-traded company. UAS Drone hasn’t been active, but constitutes a “public shell” that allows Duke Robotics to become an American public company. Duke Robotics was established by veterans of Israeli special forces units, and has developed a light weapons-carrying drone for infantry combat missions in urban areas.
Duke Robotics stated that the goal of the move is to promote the marketing of its combat drone, TIKAD. UAS Drone is traded on the Pink Market, an over-the-counter (OTC) market where penny stocks, low-value shares that trade for less than one dollar per share, are traded. It is subject to oversight by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and is required to submit periodic reports and report on any cardinal events. Being a public company, Duke will be able to raise capital from investors through the sale of its shares.
A Flying Fighting Robot
Established in 2014, Duke Robotics has developed a flying octocopter (with 8 rotors) combat robot, capable of carrying up to 9kg of light weapons that can be operated remotely via a tablet. The robot is integrated with Six Degrees of Freedom (can move in all three axes of the three-dimensional space) enabling it to perform complex and precise combat missions. According to the company, it meets the challenge of counter terrorism activity in urban areas.
In June 2016, the company’s robot received the 1st place prize at the Counter terrorism Technologies Conference, organized by the American Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO), the Israeli Directorate of Defence Research & Development (DDR&D) and the MIT Enterprise Forum. In 2017 the company reported that it was working closely with the IDF and expected orders from the Ministry of Defense.