IDF soldiers with a quadcopter during a 2020 exercise. (IDF Spokesperson) (IDF Spokesperson)
IDF drone

Using small quadcopters, the IDF is likely the first military to pull off the technological feat.

By United With Israel Staff

If one holy grail of artificial intelligence is to get a swarm of aerial drones working autonomously for a military objective, the IDF is the first army to acknowledge pulling off the technological feat.

According to Walla News, swarms of small quadcopters were deployed over Gaza dozens of times during the 11-day Gaza conflict in May. The drones, operated by the IDF’s experimental “Ghost Unit,” flew over the Strip looking for rocket launchers. Artificial intelligence helped IDF analysists sort through large numbers of satellite and aerial images to spot the launchpads.

Each flock of quadcopters was tasked with surveilling a specific area of land. As soon as a rocket launch was detected, aerial or ground forces were able to strike the launch pad.

Drone swarms have a myriad of potential civilian applications, such as disaster relief, aerial crop surveys, inspection of power lines and pipelines, detecting and monitoring forest fires, archaeology, and scientific research. But artificial intelligence is needed to coordinate the quadcopters in wind and changing atmospheric conditions, which is why they aren’t yet more common.

A commander of the Ghost Unit, who could only be identified by the Hebrew letter Mem for security reasons, told Walla News, “We conducted more than 30 sorties with the drone swarms, which collected precise intelligence and assisted other drones to carry out attacks on the targets,” he said.

Mem also told Walla News he viewed the Gaza drone swarm as a warmup for a bigger threat: Hezbollah. Estimates of the number of rockets and missiles in the Iran-backed terror group’s arsenal run as high as 150,000.

“We’re not resting on our laurels. We are already looking northward and preparing for operations in the next war,” Mem said.

Few armies in the world are thought to have the ability to launch drone swarms. The IDF is the only military to disclose deploying them.

The revelation comes amidst the backdrop of the IDF’s Momentum Plan, a multi-year program to create what some call a “sharper, more lethal” IDF.

The plan, unveiled in 2019 by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, will digitally network the fighting units and see major investment in drones, precision-guided munitions, air defense systems and artificial intelligence.

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