August 30, 2016      

As countries and organizations turn to Israel for robotics and artificial intelligence, the world’s militaries are also turning to Israeli security expertise for advanced technologies.

Back in 2008, Israel proposed a missile system that is fully controlled by AI. In early 2016, Israel sold an advanced system to a buyer in Southeast Asia that uses algorithms and self-learning to identify threats at sea.

These are just some of the Israeli developments around autonomous and military systems.

In 2009, a division within the Israeli Defense Ministry called the Authority for Research and Development of Weapons unveiled a 6-ft.-long robotic snake that is equipped with video and audio capabilities. Although its main use is to collect surveillance on targets, it can also be armed with bombs to explode.

In 2010, The Wall Street Journal quoted a vice president at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., one of Israel’s biggest arms companies, as saying that within 10 to 15 years, a third of Israel’s “military machines” will be “unmanned.”

In 2015, Israel’s military conducted a test to 3D-print drones. Few details were given except that the printers were from the U.S.

Israel extends drone, UGV capabilities

Arbe Robotics offers a radar sensing module, a processing unit, and patented code to keep drones from colliding into one another or other objects. It is designed to be low-cost, lightweight, and have low power requirements.

Militaries can use Tel Aviv-based Arbe Robotics’ hardware and software in existing unmanned drones for reconnaissance and surveillance.

In June, Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI), which has worked with the European Union on unmanned ground vehicles to deal with the refugee crisis, unveiled a new UGV called “RoBattle.”

It uses what IAI calls a “modular robotics kit” that allows the robot to be tweaked for different deployment situations. IAI previously also developed Sahar, which detects and clears improvised explosive devices, and Guardium, a UGV with surveillance and patrolling capabilities.

Israeli security innovations include small reconnaissance robots.

The Israeli Defense Force uses small robots.

Also in June, Israel-based General Robotics Ltd. unveiled a tiny combat robot called Dogo that can execute tasks such as climbing stairs and moving in different environments. Dogo can be controlled remotely, and it is equipped with a gun.

After the recent mass shooting in Dallas, Haaretz outlined how nonlethal measures could be used instead of the robot that Dallas police exploded to kill the shooter. The article specifically mentions Dogo. Will U.S. authorities tap Israeli security technology and expertise to deal with crime and terrorism in the future?

In July 2016, the Science and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security partnered with Israel’s Ministry of Public Security to create new technologies for first responders. Two projects have been selected so far, and they will involve American and Israeli companies with total funding of $4.5 million.

Israeli robots look forward

In November 2015, Roboteam Ltd. agreed to supply portable robots to the U.S. Air Force. The $25 million contract also includes maintenance, so anywhere the USAF deploys these robots, Roboteam — and by extension Israel — will have a presence.

The Tel Aviv-based company also supplied robots during the 2014 Gaza War to identify bombs and traps in tunnels. Roboteam has been supplying these same robots to the Pentagon.

Roboteam’s smallest robot is the Individual Robotic Intelligence System, or IRIS, and soldiers can throw it into a structure to provide a video feed. Probot (for “Professional Robot”) is Roboteam’s largest robot and is designed to help carry supplies. It can carry a load of up to 1,650 pounds.

“There is already a large demand for the commanders to come, learn, and familiarize themselves with the robot,” said Lieutenant Dana. “As is the case with any new tool, obviously, the field will give us new ideas that we had not considered previously. We are only at the beginning of the robot era.”

What makes Roboteam’s robots important, along with their functionality, is that it is offering its products at almost 50 percent less than the prices of competitors. Is this a sign of how Israel will grow its military robotics capabilities — by efficiently undercutting the competition?

If this becomes the model that Israel adopts, will the government get behind Israeli robotics companies and support these discounts to grow the country’s influence — even if they are absorbing losses?

More on Security and Military Robotics:

Israeli security extends nation’s influence

Israel is growing its robotic industry by helping to solve the challenges that other countries are facing. Israeli security expertise is also relevant to the development of military robots such as the robot snake and unmanned tank.

While Israel is not new to robotics, it is still in the early phases of taking advantage of its robotics offerings to extend its influence globally. Israel is a leader in exoskeletons, agricultural robotics, and military robots.

In the future, could the Israeli government begin deploying robotic labs in different countries to attract talent and ensure that Israel is leading robotic advances beyond the Middle East?

And equally important, how will other Middle Eastern nations respond to Israel’s robotics power — specifically Iran and Saudi Arabia? Perhaps, as Israeli security drives technology R&D, geopolitics will fuel a new “robotics race” in the region.

Israel is undergoing a new transformation — and robotics is front and center. In the coming years, many of the robotic applications deployed in factories, workplaces, and homes may come out of Israeli labs.

However, the biggest impact that robotics has on Israel is that for the first time, the country is moving beyond what it has traditionally focused on and been held back by — regional conflict. As robotics in Israel accelerates, what will it mean for you?