Virtual reality, controlling drones with body sensors part of future battlefield

Air force convenes 400 military hi-tech experts to work on innovations.

June 19, 2016 08:03
2 minute read.
IAF robot

CUTTING EDGE TECHNOLOGIES, including robots and the control of drones through body movements, developed by some of the IDF’s brightest minds, are on display recently at the IAF’s Technical Base in Haifa. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)


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Virtual reality, the Internet of things, and the control of drones through body movements are technologies that could one day serve the IDF on the battlefield.

An event hosted this month by the Israel Air Force, called Mahanet, held at a technical base in Haifa, brought together some 400 of the brightest minds in the military to work together on innovative, hi-tech developments.

“This was a three-day event that brought together personnel from across the IDF’s branches, as well as all of the technological units, to encourage innovation and creative thinking, said Lt. Guy Cohen, the head of the air force innovation team. “The relationships forged between members of the IDF’s branches will be critical to fast-tracking future combat-related research and development.”

Not all of the projects that appeared at the event will continue after its end, but several projects could become future Israeli capabilities, based on ideas for new technologies that do not currently exist in the military.

“The main goal is to create future cooperation, on the basis of us having met here.

It means we can do this, not through only phone calls, but also through meetings between the heads of branches,” Cohen stated.

The participants hailed from the ranks of corporal to colonel, and came up with out-of-the-box solutions.

“These projects are not operational at this stage, but could be used later,” Cohen said.

They include an attempt by the IAF to develop virtual reality technologies for training, and for battlefield assistance.

The Internet of things is also on the IAF’s wish-list for the future development, Cohen said.

“Virtual reality can simulate a battlefield, and generate scenarios where [pilots] are attacked,” he said. “I can use the Internet of things to link up a battalion commander in my sector to someone sitting an [air force] control center,” he added. Virtual reality might also be used to train technicians on how to service the F-35 fifth generation fighter jets, due to enter service this year.

Such breakthroughs could change “the way I attack, or look at the whole area and communicate with gestures,” Cohen said. “We are looking at how we can take these things to our world of command in the IAF.”

Innovations would also enable the IDF to swiftly transfer data from ground units or intelligence officers to aircraft.

The project to land an Israeli robot on the moon was born in a previous Mahanet conference, Cohen noted. A small Israeli spaceship carrying the robot is set for launch in 2017.

Another project that appeared this year involved taking a bed and linking it to cables. A subject lay on the bed, and used his movements to navigate mock drones. “If you’re on the battlefield and you can’t afford to be exposed [to enemy fire], we can take sensors and use them to enable soldiers lying down to control drones,” Cohen explained.

Maj. Oren (full name withheld), a deputy commander of an IAF squadron of technicians, said the workshop created new networks among military personnel who did not previously know one another.

“This can lead to bigger things. Some of the teams that took part in this can continue developing projects,” Maj. Oren stated.

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