A robotic four-legged dog and a small drone infiltrated and mapped a building in an Israeli coastal community recently as part of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems demonstration of new technological capabilities for indoor battlefields.
The use of the unmanned systems combined capabilities Rafael has developed for air and land forces over the last decades to be used for what it calls “essential trends found on the multidimensional battlefield.” This includes using artificial intelligence, optical scanning, automatic target recognition and digital battlefield technology to map, scan and identify threats without sending in soldiers.
Open architecture design means these capabilities can be combined into a kind of “brain” for various unmanned robotic systems, a Rafael spokesperson said. This particular configuration of technology for indoor combat is not operational yet, but the company says it is receiving interest for potential contracts this year.
In Rafael’s presentation, Shmuel Olanski, vice president and head of the land innovation programs center, surveyed the current challenges ground troops face in the modern battlefield. Ground troops often have not benefited from the kind of high-end technology available to the air force, such as targeting pods or surveillance and use of AI on missiles. Israel’s years of experience fighting in urban environments, such as Gaza, or against adversaries in houses in villages, like those in southern Lebanon, has led to these kinds of solutions that the company sees as having applicability globally.
“The big thing we did here in terms of technology, we developed autonomous brains using artificial intelligence for each of these platforms. The big advantage of them is they can operate in remote and isolated environments, especially in the indoor environment. They have autonomous capabilities, and this is game changing in terms of these platforms,” said Noam Barak, head of Rafael’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center. The robotic dog from Ghost Robotics in the U.S., and the small UAV the company assembled from a kit to adapt to the unique payloads required, operated together during the demo last month. While the dog walked from room to room, exploring and building a map that is sent back in real time to a computer screen, the drone also scanned. Together they build a picture, identifying weapons, such as rocket-propelled grenades, that are littered throughout the compound. They can also read text.
Barak says that Rafael is building on its experience doing target recognition from the air, such as adding artificial intelligence to Spice bombs, and the work it is doing on Israel’s future combat vehicle Carmel program, to address indoor environments.