The residents of the city of Haifa might have noticed a motorcycle driving fast across the city, taking a particularly circuitous route. What they didn’t notice was the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) contest being held at that very moment, and that the motorcycle was acting as a target for the UAVs to follow. Both operators of the “Hermes 450” and “Heron 1” participated in the contest, with the latter emerging as victor.

The judge’s bench was filled by air crew members, who communicated with the operators by way of two-way radio throughout the event and examined their performance. “The world of UAVs is not my comfort zone and therefore I had to undergo a long, detailed debriefing before the contest”, said Major Eitan, a heavy transport plane navigator and a judge in the contest. “Our missions are also very different, although there are many similar elements within the world of aviation”.

Highly Complex Competition

Following the motorcycle as it carried out evasive maneuvers was just one of missions practiced as part of the annual competition. Lt. Col. Eyal from Instruction and Training Department explained how hard it was to carry it out: “This is definitely the most complex competition we host”, he said. “Enemy simulation and other components of the competition require extensive preliminary preparation”.

The organizers did not make it easy on the participants, and set the bar high. The fact that the UAV operators had to locate not only large-sized military targets but also civilian objects, which blend in with the urban view, like a motorcycle on a highway, made the missions even more challenging.

The operators were graded in accordance with the difficulty of the task. For example, a static target granted them with more points than a moving one. “Each aircraft has its own advantages”, explained Major Moshe from Instruction Department. “The missions were diverse – from scanning an area and locating targets to following a moving target and directing other airplanes to track it down”.

Practicing Relevant Missions

Major Yoav, who commanded the competition, remarked that while the competition itself helped raise motivation and improve each operator’s capabilities, the simulated threats were relevant and can be encountered during operational activity. “The operators were forced to face surprises, conduct tracking in unknown areas, and deal with real time changes”. Therefore, due to the high level of realism that the contest provided, the competition also served as a heightened training platform for real life scenarios. […]