Israeli Skylark Drone a 'Game Changer'

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NEGEV DESERT, Israel -- Many Americans worry the U.S. government could use drones to spy on or attack its own citizens.

By contrast, the Israel Defense Forces is using a relatively new type of drone, developed by Elbit Systems, to save Israeli and Palestinian lives.

It's called Skylark -- one of the world's smallest drones. It's the kind of tool becoming increasingly crucial to the global war on terrorism.

"It's a game changer. It really is," IDF officer-in-training Noam Goldstein told CBN News. "Once they [troops] didn't know what was behind this house, what was behind this mountain. You know now, in two seconds you know and you can act accordingly."

The IDF gave CBN News a private look at this mini unmanned aerial system, or UAS, in the Negev Desert.

Soldiers carry the 13-pound Skylark to the field in a backpack.

"Its goal is to assist the ground forces with live intelligence from the next field, the next corner, in the next alley," Lt. Ori Edry, with the IDF's Artillery Corp Skyrider Unit, explained.

The unit can assemble and launch the Skylark within eight minutes, giving Israeli troops a new and potentially life-saving advantage in the field.

"The unique thing is they are actually working inside the field like every [all] ground troops and they're using a really, really advanced technology," Edry continued.

Soldiers launch this hi-tech drone into the wind from a bungee cord. It doesn't take long before it's out of sight.

The Skylark can fly up to 15,000 feet in the air for three hours at a time at about 50 mph -- and even faster if there's a good tailwind.

"Right now we're three people on [the] computer. Each one has different jobs," Goldstein explained. "Right now he's actually flying the plane. He's in charge of giving all the commands so that basically everything the plane does is under his control."

Operators don't need flight experience to operate the drone -- only to point the camera and the Skylark responds, taking video night or day and in all weather conditions.

What the Skylark sees is shown in IDF training videos. It can save troops from ambush as well as prevent civilian casualties.

"Actually, we use it with a battalion making arrests in the West Bank for some terrorists," Goldstein continued. "If he's running, we're going to chase him with the plane, the UAV, and tell them [troops on the ground] how to go and run after him."

It can also solve legal questions because everything is recorded.

"It's a legal proof that there weren't civilians there. That it's really [a] terrorist there, or terrorists launch missiles or whatever," Goldstein said.

According to the Skylark's developer and manufacturer, Elbit Systems, the UAS is currently operated by NATO countries and others around the world, including the U.K. in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It has parliamentary, homeland security, and civilian markets.

When Skylark is finished with its mission, the engine stalls, an airbag pops out and drops to the ground. Mission accomplished!

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Julie Stahl and Chris Mitchell

Julie Stahl and Chris Mitchell

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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