IDF rolls out new version of Skylark drone

The IDF released new footage Monday showing off performance of the Artillery Corps’s Skylark drone, which recently began operating in a new and improved version.

Between the first half of 2016 and the first half of 2017, the drones saw an uptick of 1,000 operational flight hours.

The drone’s new version, dubbed Block 3, allows for greater flight time, longer flight ranges, easier operation, more varied communication between forces and higher resolution photography.

A new command troop, created a few months ago, will also be utilizing the new Skylarks deep behind enemy lines, as a tool for intelligence collection and observation on special ground maneuvering missions far from the Israeli border.

Skylark operators during a drill in Cyprus

The troop had recently participated in a large commando forces drill held in Cyprus, and has also developed a new ability for using the drone to more efficiently direct fire and hone in on targets.

The drone, the smallest specimen operated by the IDF, is geared towards observation and opening progress routes for company, battalion and brigade commanders, both during routine security missions in various sectors and ground maneuvering in wartime.

Despite their inclusion in the aforementioned group, specialized drone teams are currently being put together to service brigade commanders. The drones put in their service will be larger and weigh up to six times as much as the regular model.

As part of rolling out the new version’s updates, the entirety of the unit’s drone arsenal will be fitted with high definition cameras to assist in supplying soldiers on the ground with three-dimensional aerial photographs.

Skylark missions over Syria and Nahal Oz

Furthermore, the unit has been integrating more and more women into the fighting force, capable of crossing enemy lines in armored personnel carriers at wartime, with reserve female combat soldiers soon to be assigned to the unit as well.

The first female company commander will be arriving to the unit this coming fall. The Skylarks unit is currently being commanded by Lt.-Col. Reut Ratig Weiss. “A popular army does what’s best considering operational needs,” she said. “If it thinks the proper thing is to train more female soldiers, that’s what it will do.”

A Skylark mission over Jenin

“I have received an opportunity, equal among my peers, and like to believe I’m here because of my abilities. Female soldiers’ performance is measured by the same yardstick as their male comrades. There are no breaks to be had and everyone is afforded an equal opportunity,” Weiss added.

The unit’s commander also elaborated on the drones’ capabilities, saying they worked using two disparate cameras and—coupled with their new ability to direct fire—will be used to point forces towards targets they wish to hit.

Commenting on the drones’ rather inglorious track record of averaging one to two crashes per month, usually in enemy territory, the officer said, “The drone is simple and relatively cheap, carries no backups and is intended to carry out missions until it drops. We carry out inquiries into any such drops, learn the requisite lessons and reduce the number of them from year to year.”