Eye in the sky

Israeli military commanders making greater use of unmmanned aerial vehicles.

hovermast521 (photo credit: Courtesy of Sky Sapience)
(photo credit: Courtesy of Sky Sapience)
Israel has always been at the forefront of developing new ways of gathering real-time intelligence for its military forces. The Israel Air Force famously pioneered extensive use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) that can both observe battlefields and interact with events on the ground.
With battlefield information needs continually accelerating, military commanders have begun seeking ways of providing the advantages of drone perspectives to all military units, down to individual soldiers.
Gabriel Shachor, CEO and founder of Sky Sapience, tells The Jerusalem Report that this was the guiding idea behind the development of the HoverMast, a five-propeller platform that is capable of carrying several different payloads including cameras, laser designators and radar equipment. The platform is wire operated by a ground-based vehicle or boat to which it is connected.
“The need for real-time intelligence is constant,” says Shachor.
The data wire also provides power to the platform so that it can remain airborne for an unlimited amount of time, giving it an advantage over drones, whose flight time is restricted by their battery power.
“Another unique feature is that you don’t need any skills to operate it. You don’t need to be a UAV operator,” says Shachor. “With the push of three buttons inside the car, the system will be up in 15 seconds.”
Fully deployed, the HoverMast reaches a maximum height of 50 meters. The information gathered by the payload is displayed on a monitor mounted inside the vehicle, and it can be relayed either back to a central command post or to soldiers in the field.
Shachor believes that the platform is best suited for homeland security. “If you ask me what the main market is, I would say the U.S.-Mexican border.”
He says the platform can also be used for non-military purposes. For example, power companies inspecting power lines could enjoy considerable savings using HoverMast because inspectors can rapidly survey the condition of power lines while operating the platform from a moving car without having to stop and climb a crane every few meters. According to Shachor, Sky Sapience has recently been approached by a communications firm seeking a platform to carry aerial antennae for data relay.
The platform can also be used to overlook agricultural fields, and since the HoverMast can be mounted on boats, it can also be used for water-body surveillance.
“This type of platform is gaining popularity, and the HoverMast is one of the most advanced of its kind,” says Arie Egozi, an Israeli defense and aerospace analyst, adding that Israel Aerospace Industries is also developing its own hovering platform called the Electric Tethered Observation Platform (ETOP).
Production of the HoverMast is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2012. The company is developing a model that will be light and small enough to by carried by an individual soldier.