MagicFly: The nano-drone based on flies that helps the IDF during war

The new autonomous systems unveiled by Rafael Advanced Defense System also includes a robotic snake and robotic dog.

 MagicFly: The new nano-drone by Rafael. (photo credit: RAFAEL ADVANCED DEFENSE SYSTEMS)
MagicFly: The new nano-drone by Rafael.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has unveiled a series of autonomous systems with advanced capabilities based on animals in order to reduce the risk of danger to soldiers on the battlefield.

The systems, which have been developed at Rafael’s Entrepreneur and Innovation Center in northern Israel, include the Magic Fly-Nano unmanned aerial vehicle, a robotic snake and a robotic dog unmanned ground vehicle.

“Today, only humans and animals can go inside a building and it can be a very high risk to soldiers, so we thought, ‘What kind of technological edge can we bring to our soldiers to reduce the risk?’” said Noam Barak, director of the Entrepreneur and Innovation Center.

“When we understood the major challenge we began to brainstorm and held a hackathon that dealt with biomimicry with over 100 people,” he continued, adding that the engineers looked at animals like snakes and flies before coming up with the ideas for the projects.

The systems are all linked to a ground control system that can be operated by a single soldier beyond the line of sight, and a variety of different sensors that allow the platforms to explore their environments and fuse all incoming data in real time.

RAFAEL-Magic-Fly from RAFAEL on Vimeo.

While the MagicFly was designed by the center’s engineers, the platform of the robotic dog was purchased from an American company and then joint ventures are carried out in-house to improve it and make it autonomous.

 A robotic dog unmanned ground vehicle. (credit: RAFAEL ADVANCED DEFENSE SYSTEMS) A robotic dog unmanned ground vehicle. (credit: RAFAEL ADVANCED DEFENSE SYSTEMS)

“When you use all the same architecture, the robotic dog can even carry a few Magic Fly-nano and can work together to make it a joint mission. It’s like a big carrier that can walk a few kilometers, release the drones to do their job and then have them return to the dog” that would then return to the operator, Barak explained.

“It’s very natural for these systems to go to special units in the military, but if we think about it, the MagicFly Nano can even be used as a small grenade. It is a smart nano-drone that can do all sorts of missions and if it is cheap enough it can be given to every soldier,” he added.

Though all the systems are still prototypes and not yet operational, the IDF has used the Magic Fly Nano during a military operation to test it.

“That’s exciting,” Barak said.

The systems can also assist in other scenarios such as disaster relief or rescue operations to locate survivors following earthquakes or other tragedies.

The center, which was opened four years ago, was described by Barak as the home for all entrepreneurs who want to develop future emerging technology, be it for civilian or military industries.

The innovation center, which has a core team of some 15-20 Rafael engineers and students, is viewed by the defense giant as an incubator where ideas based on Rafael’s main future road map of autonomous and robotic systems are seeded.

According to Barak, once an operational need to challenge is identified, the team of entrepreneurs “with a passion to develop the project” brings it to fruition.

“Companies across the world are starting to work on this type of technology, everyone wants autonomous robotics to replace humans in the office, in the car, battlefield, homeland security, warehouses, etc,” Barak said.

“We try to do things differently and bring it to market within a very short time.”