The unmanned air systems (UAS) operated by the Israeli air force (IAF) have been pushed to the limit during the month of fighting dubbed operation “Protective Edge”.
From mini-UAS like the Elbit Systems Skylark operated by ground forces, through to the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron, Elbit Hermes-450 and up to the huge IAI Heron TP, UAS squadrons have been operating “around the clock”, according to an industry source.
It is clear that UAS will play a major part in any future Israeli combat operation.
During Protective Edge, Israel defence forces UAS performed a number of different missions – some under very “tight” conditions.
The IAF realised some time ago that increasing use of UAS will demand reliable availability. This is one reason why the IAF is developing health management systems for UAS.
The IAF’s unit 108 – the forces’ “electronic unit” – is leading development. The unit deals with electronics, but is actually the nerve centre of all the systems the IAF operates – manned, unmanned and on the ground.
The fact that 50% of the IAF’s operational flight hours are being performed by UAS – in combat the percentage is even higher – led to the decision to find a way of predicting UAS malfunctions.
Health management systems are currently used mainly on commercial aircraft. These onboard sensors measure parameters related to the health of an aircraft.
The IAF lost a number of UAS in recent years – in most cases mechanical failure was the cause. Also, as UAS become bigger and carry a variety of payloads, each crash is a loss of a large sum of money.
The health systems being developed specifically for UAS are designed to give advanced warning about a problem that in most cases develops from a minor one to a critical one that causes the loss of a UAS.