Israeli "butterfly" UAV. Image courtesy: Israel Hayom

May 19, 2012 (TSR) – The future is here and this is not a butterfly on your wall, as Israeli drones are getting tiny. Their latest project – a butterfly-shaped drone weighing just 20 grams – the smallest in its range so far – can gather intelligence inside buildings.

The new miniscule surveillance device can take color pictures and is capable of a vertical take-off and hover flight, just like a helicopter, reports the daily Israel Hayom. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) says this may come in handy in ground clashes, when a soldier would merely take it out of a pocket and send behind the enemy’s line.

The insect-drone, with its 0.15-gram camera and memory card, is managed remotely with a special helmet. Putting on the helmet, you find yourself in the “butterfly’s cockpit” and virtually see what the butterfly sees – in real time.

Israeli "butterfly" UAV. Image courtesy: Israel Hayom

The butterfly’s advantage is its ability to fly in an enclosed environment. There is no other aerial vehicle that can do that today,” Dubi Binyamini, head of IAI’s mini-robotics department, told Israel Hayom.

Structures under observation can be anything from train stations or airport terminals – or office buildings – to battlefields and even forests in, say, southern Lebanon, where Israel believes Hezbollah hides its ambush squads.

The virtually noiseless “butterfly” flaps its four wings 14 times per second. Almost translucent, it looks like an overgrown moth, but is still smaller than some natural butterflies.

This is bio-mimicry, when technology imitates nature. And this has proved to hide a trap. When the device was tested at a height of 50-meters, birds and flies tended to fall behind the device arranging into a flock.

Israeli "butterfly" UAV. Image courtesy: Israel Hayom

The IAI, Israel’s major aerospace and aviation manufacturer, needs two more years to polish their “butterfly” project. The product seems to fall into the trend of reducing drone size. Their recent models promoted for city observation and conflicts were the Ghost, weighing 4 kg, and Mosquito, which weighs only 500 grams.

While the “butterfly” may bring “a real technological revolution,” as the developer predicts, to the military field, questions remain how it will change the civil life. The drone is also propped up for police use and there is little doubt that secret services will be only too happy to grab such an intricate weapon.

US to transfer additional funds for Iron Dome this year

Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in Washington on Thursday and discussed, among other things, funding for additional Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system batteries. Panetta told Barak that U.S. President Barack Obama has authorized the transfer of $70 million to Israel for that purpose before the year’s end.

The U.S. already has provided $205 million for the defense system and annually gives Israel roughly another $3.1 billion in overall security assistance, the most for any foreign country.

“My goal is to ensure Israel has the funding it needs each year to produce these batteries that can protect its citizens,” Panetta said. “That is why going forward over the next three years, we intend to request additional funding for Iron Dome, based on an annual assessment of Israeli security requirements against an evolving threat.”

In response to Panetta’s statement, Barak said, “In the name of the people of Israel I would like to thank the American president and government for aiding Israel and for their absolute commitment to our security.”

The Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system proved its worth by performing nearly flawlessly, routinely intercepting enemy rockets in several days of confrontations between the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian terrorist groups firing rockets into Israel in March. The tit-for-tat began with the IDF’s assassination of Popular Resistance Committees leader Zuhair al-Kaisi, but no Israeli citizens were killed in the violence and only several were wounded.

In a show of support for the president’s authorization of funds for the Israeli-manufactured system, Rep. Howard Berman of California, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “Iron Dome is a game changer, saving lives and providing increased security to innocent Israelis who for too long have been terrorized by random Palestinian terrorist rocket attacks. At every turn — Democrats and Republicans, this administration and the Netanyahu government — we all have walked in lockstep to achieve these results together.”

Meanwhile, Republican members of Congress thwarted a proposal by members of the Democratic Party to impose additional economic sanctions on Iran. The proposal suggested the government work to prevent any business dealings with Iran’s crude oil industry.

In another move, 401 members of the House of Representatives voted to pass a decision which states that it is vital to U.S. interests to prevent the Iranian regime from achieving nuclear weapons capability.


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