Israel's military is preparing to issue a request for information (RFI) for a so-called "personal UAS" for use by infantry soldiers.

The operational requirement for such an unmanned air system stems from the framework of the Israel Defence Forces' (IDF) "Digital Army" programme. This envisions an infantry soldier being equipped with navigation and communication systems that will make the individual part of a wide array of systems that create a "big picture", but which at the same time allow the lone soldier to affect the battlefield.

Sources indicate the pending request will focus on a 1-1.5kg (2.2-3.3lb) UAS with an endurance of 15min, carrying a day or night payload. The aim is to enable a low unit price, mainly by mass production.

The IDF's artillery corps is currently using Elbit Systems' larger Skylark 1LE UAS, which has a maximum take-off weight of7.5kg and performs roles includingdata collection and target designation. Equipped with an electro-optical/infrared camera and with a 3h endurance, the type has a missionrange of 21.6nm (40km) and an operating ceiling of15,000ft. It also requiresat least two soldiers to operate.

Rafael recently unveiled a prototype of a small, hovering tactical intelligence-gathering system with a 15min endurance.The reusable "Maoz" is carried in a small canister stowed in the personal gear of an infantry soldier.According to the company, one soldier can carry a number of air vehicles plus a small control unit.The micro-UAS can hover at a distance of 5km from its operator in an open area, or 1km in an urban environment, at heights of up to 328ft. It is expected to be equipped with a day camera and night vision sensor.

The expected RFI is viewed as heralding a breakthrough in the use of unmanned systems in the IDF, as for the first time the intention is to allow almost every fighting soldier to look "beyond the hill" and get data on a personal device for immediate use.