Israel shows off its drones

This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

Switzerland this week voted to buy six Israeli surveillance drones made by Elbit in a deal worth $256 million. The deal went through despite a campaign by protestors not to buy Israeli-made products because of alleged human rights abused against Palestinians.

The deal came the same week that an exhibition in Rishon Letzion showed off the latest in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, also known as drones. Israel has long been in the forefront of manufacturing drones.

“This is a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft which can fly for three times the time as a multi-copter and is resistant to wind while hovering,” Amit Regev the CEO of Colugo said of his prototype the Arcopter. “We are aiming at many markets including precision agriculture and first responders. What we have here is the next generation.”

He spent many years flying drones in the Israeli army, but said his start-up is aimed at civilian applications. In China, he says, drones are already delivering packages, a move which saves time and money, and does not add to the carbon footprint, as a truck delivering a package would.

He has come to this exhibition in Rishon Letzion, near Tel Aviv, looking for investors and partners. It is the third time that iHLS, a website that deals with homeland security has sponsored the exhibition.

“Israel is a major power in unmanned systems,” Arie Egozi, the conference organizer told The Media Line. “Israel needed them for its survival. It’s not that the US doesn’t have the capability to do this, but they fight in Afghanistan, far away. Israel needed this system to fight wars and that is why it is so advanced.”

Among the items on display were the Heron, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It can fly for 52 hours continuously and can be fully autonomous from takeoff to landing. It can carry the most sophisticated payloads and cameras, and is used in at least 20 countries, said IAI officials.

Also used for surveillance is the RT Skystar Systems which look like large white nylon balloons. These were used during last summer’s fighting between Israel and the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip, says Taly Kosberg Shmueli, the Vice President of RT.

“We do all kinds of missions including protecting the border, intelligence and aiding special forces,” she told The Media Line. “Last summer we had 13 systems around Gaza and we are now working on the Egyptian border as well as Jerusalem.”

Dozens of governments sent representatives including China, India and Albania. Israel’s defense exports totaled $5.6 billion in 2014, including drones. The businessmen declined to be interviewed.

There were also exhibits from companies that make parts for aircraft. One that received a lot of attention was Su-Pad, a company that uses 3-D printers to make plastic parts for drones and other planes.

“The users are adopting the technology in a way that is getting better and better,” Ziv Sadeh, the Sales Manager for Su-Pad told The Media Line. “We supplied a big printer to the Israeli air force. They use a polymer called ultem, and it is able to make parts for the aerospace industry. We are able to print very complex parts and we don’t need a tool to do it. The price is much smaller than traditional methods.”

Organizer Egozi says that what is on display is only what is not classified.

“There are many many other drones that are still classified and will be so for many years,” he said. “What you see here is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Overheard at the DLD Tel Aviv Digital Conference

“Hey, Jackson! How’s your startup coming? Still living the dream?”

“We’re not really fancy yet. We still need to have that discussion.”

“Let me be Israeli for a minute and not be politically correct.”

“Let’s do it after Rosh Hashanah. Don’t let me forget, dude.”

“It’s good to laugh about Microsoft, just like it’s good to laugh about Yair Lapid.”

“They’re a pain in the ass, but you can’t get rid of investors. It’s very hard.”

“Really? People want to monitor their urine on their iPhone?”

“You’re kidding, how much?” “I don’t know — you’ll have to ask them. But an incredible amount.”

“My nephew was in this unit. They give them super hot projects like Iron Dome. Now, after that, everything looks easy.”

“The Chinese are hungry. The Thai are not so hot on Israel, but the Chinese are. So are the Taiwanese.”

“There’s so much money here on this small island.”

“I don’t care where you find them, just find me the startups.”

“I know someone who knows the woman who was almost kidnapped in Jerusalem.”

“If you get caught without a business card, you’re gonna get f—ed, man.”

“It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for him, because he has high blood pressure.”

“No, she couldn’t come. She’s doing a hackathon in Westfield over the weekend.”

“Look, if you want, you could have a presence for a couple thousand dollars.”

More from the conference: 

Israeli tech sector continues investment surge with nearly $1B quarter

Israeli high-tech firms raised $930 million in the second quarter of 2014, the sector’s strongest quarter in more than a decade.

The figure, drawn from a survey by the Israeli Venture Capital Research Center and financial firm KMPG, was the highest quarterly figure since 2000 and an increase of 109 percent from one year ago.

Combined with the results from the first quarter of this year, Israeli high-tech firms raised $1.6 billion in the first half of 2014, which the research center calls “the strongest capital raising period on record for Israel’s high-tech industry.”

The strong quarter was led by a $135 million investment in Landa Digital Printing by the Altana Group, a German investment company. Life science firms raised more than any other sector, drawing $251 million in capital.

The data indicate the continuation of a recent investment surge in the Israeli tech sector. In 2013, Israeli high-tech firms raised $2.3 billion, the most in a decade, according to Reuters.


Milken conference explores Israel-California tech partnership

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and California Gov. Jerry Brown signed an agreement in March to boost economic cooperation between Israel and California, positive feelings were high, but details were few and far between.

Plans became clearer — if only a little bit — at the recent Milken Institute Global Conference at the Beverly Hilton, which took place April 27-30.

Seven breakout sessions and panels with renowned businessmen, politicians and academics involved Israel and topics such as energy, agriculture and health, but it was the final one on April 30 that directly related to implementing the memorandum of understanding signed by Netanyahu and Brown two months ago in Silicon Valley.

The goal of that pact, both leaders said at the time, involves solving problems in the areas of water conservation, alternative energy and cybersecurity threats. It gives Israeli companies access to California’s Innovation Hub (iHub) Program, which is composed of 16 research clusters around the state.

Led by Milken senior fellow Glenn Yago, the local panel featured the likes of Nathan Brostrom, the University of California’s executive vice president for business operations, and David Siegel, Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles.

And although, as Yago said afterward, accomplishing concrete steps in a conference is always difficult, his goal was to gather under one roof major players from Israel and California who will play a role in helping both states work together.

“Neither the prime minister nor the governor had any interest in it just being a photo op or a press release,” Yago told the Journal. “They want the two states to really develop a global platform for breakthrough technologies.”

Take water, for starters. Israel is widely regarded as the most advanced nation in water conservation and purification. It has, after all, turned what was desert and swamp into a developed, vibrant nation. 

From its early-warning leak systems that allow farmers and water officials to detect dribbles before they become bursts, to desalination technology that allows Israel to safely draw a large portion of its annual water consumption from the Mediterranean Sea, it may have much to offer California, a state facing a severe drought. 

In a way, the memorandum of understanding signed by the two governments’ leaders came after years of intimate economic cooperation at the market level. Firms like Netafim, an Israeli irrigation company with an office in Fresno, and BrightSource Energy, a solar-thermal company with projects in the Mojave Desert, already have brought Israeli technology to the massive California market.

One new thing the Netanyahu-Brown agreement may have done was give the economic ties that already exist more attention, and make local governments across California aware of the benefits that so many Israeli firms can provide.

“Much is already happening between Israel and California,” Siegel said. “It’s a matter of giving it visibility and communicating to government officials and private sector and public sector officials the significance of Israeli technology in areas that are critical to California.”

The consul general told the Journal that one way the agreement could be implemented is by establishing a think tank or a nongovernmental organization to coordinate turning the promises of the intergovernmental memo into concrete economic development. 

In March, building upon the deal signed in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield introduced a measure to establish a task force for increasing cooperation between Los Angeles and its sister city, Eilat, in a number of areas, including water technology. 

One Israeli businessman who came in from London for the conference was Yariv Cohen, chairman of Kaenaat, a London-based economic development firm. An expert in bringing niche technologies to the global market, Cohen hopes that California can serve as a testing ground for Israeli technologies that could benefit much of the developing world.

“We are working now on how to redesign the tools that create public-private partnerships to promote the scaling-up of clean energy,” Cohen said. 

In other words, once California’s government works more at integrating advanced Israeli clean-energy technology — a key component of Netanyahu’s and Brown’s agreement — Cohen may then be able to bring “the technologies that have been developed and tested in Israel here to emerging economies,” particularly ones that have chronic shortages in two areas of economic development — water and energy. 

Cohen summarized how he sees Israeli technology using the California market to go global: “Use the strength of Israel, the ‘startup nation,’ and California, the ‘scale-up nation,’ to deal with world problems.”

Israel opens up about national cyber plans

Israel will establish a national cyber situation room as part of a national cybernetic defense concept.

National Cyber Bureau head Dr. Evyatar Mataniah also announced Wednesday at Tel Aviv University’s Second Annual International Cyber Conference that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved the budget and work plan for the bureau that was established at the beginning of the year.

The announcement came on the heels of a speech by Defense Minister Ehud Barak in which he acknowledged for the first time that Israel has launched offensive cyberspace operations. He said Israel has been working on both cyber defense and offense, but stressed that defense is more important.

“Our goal with cyber defense, which is the more important and difficult component, is to prevent damage,” Barak said, according to Haaretz. “It is more than we can benefit from an offensive action, even though both aspects exist.”

It is suspected that Israel released the Flame virus that was discovered attacking computers in Iran and the West Bank, among other places, last month. The Flame virus reportedly shares some characteristics with the Stuxnet virus that attacked Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and which Israel was accused of creating with U.S. cooperation.