The IDF’s new combined-arms Refaim (Ghost) Unit completed its first major exercise last week, in a demonstration overseen by IDF chief of staff Lt General Aviv Kochavi. A video of the exercise gives a glimpse of an unusual new drone: a quadcopter which flips over and sticks to a vertical wall and hangs there, before flying off and leaving an object still attached.
The Ghost Unit was formed in January to develop innovative tactics, combining infantry with combat engineers, attack helicopters, drones, and robotics. The the unit tested “breakthrough capabilities that were developed in collaboration with a number of defense contractors,” according to an IDF statement.
The role of this ‘Spiderman’ drone is not explained or described. In the same video sequence, troops use a DJI Mavic, a low-cost consumer drone, to scout ahead in urban alleyways. IDF infantry have been using Mavics since 2017 as an alternative to expensive military drones, but the new drone is something else.
Developers have long been interested in ‘perch and stare’ capability for small drones, allowing them to keep watch for extended periods without running out of battery power of giving away their position with rotor noise. Back in 2008 DARPA explored the technology for Stealthy Persistent Perch and Stare based on the WASP drone made by AeroVironment AVAV +0.5%. Some developers have worked on adhesion using microspines allowing drones to cling to vertical surfaces ; in 2014 Bhargav Gajjar of Vishwa Robotics carried out a US Air Force Contract to build a drone that can perch like a kestrel. However, the IDF drone is the first such perching drone to reach military service.