Sky Sapience Delivers the First Pre-Production Hovermast to the IDF

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The Hovermast 100 can elevate to an altitude of 150 feet in 15 seconds, providing a valuable intelligence gathering tool for tactical units. Photo: Sky Sapience
The Hovermast 100 can elevate to an altitude of 150 feet in 15 seconds, providing a valuable intelligence gathering tool for tactical units. Photo: Sky Sapience

Israel’s Sky Sapience company has delivered today to the Israel Defense Forces’ Land Forces Command the first pre-production example of the HoverMast 100 – an autonomous, tethered hovercraft carrying a stabilized electro-optical payload. The system was delivered at a proving ground on the slopes of Mt. Carmel, where the company regularly tests the systems.

The system will now enter operational evaluation with the IDF, leading to operational use with front line units. The company CEO and founder Gabriel Shahor said the company is currently establishing the assembly line for the new product line, once the line is active, the company is expected to deliver additional Hovermasts to international customers. Sky Sapience will demonstrate the Hovermast 100 at the Autonomous, Unmanned Systems & Robotics (AUS&R) convention taking place in Israel November 26.

Hovermast answers the requirement for rapid and timely intelligence gathering at the tactical echelon. The system employs a sophisticated, electrically powered platform using a main lift fan and four stabilizing rotors, maintaining the platform in flight, hovering and maintaining stable line of sight with a target of interest even when subjected to strong winds or wind gusts. The system carries sophisticated multi-sensor payloads operating day and night under all weather conditions. Hovermast 100 carries 13 pounds (6 kg) of payloads. [nonmember]Exclusive insight available to members – subscribe now![/nonmember][ismember]

The Hovermast 100 typically carries the Controp T-STAMP EO payload, integrating a daylight (CCD-TV camera) and Thermal cameras, both employing zoom lenses, and laser pointer, all weighing less than 6 pounds (2.8 kg). The Hovermast can also lift additional payloads, such as small surveillance radars, SIGINT or COMINT payloads, radio relays etc. The company is already working on a variant that will be able to increase the payload lift by 50 percent.

As a tactical intelligence gathering platform, the tethered platform has the advantage of silent operation, and zero radio emissions, as the all sensor feeds and operating command are transferred through the tether, providing the highest resolution and bandwidth while avoiding  wireless communications that could be intercepted or cause cross-band interference to other systems.

Some of the unique capabilities of the Hovermast 100 were demonstrated to Israel Ministry of Defense personnel earlier in 2013. Responding to a press of a button, the platform can elevate rapidly, within 15 seconds, to an altitude of 165 feet (50 m’) and remain airborne indefinitely, its lift and stabilization fans and payloads are relying on energy provided from the ground-bound supporting vehicle, through a tether that also keeps the platform safe and secure. The tether is also the key for the Hovermast usability in areas where other unmanned platform are unable to operate, due to flight restrictions.

The Hovermast is packed into a compact, lightweight and self sustained assembly that can be integrated on a wide range of vehicles, from armored fighting vehicles, to tactical vehicles, pickup trucks and unmanned ground vehicles, manned or unmanned boats. The main advantage of Hovermast, compared to telescopic masts or unmanned aerial vehicles, is its rapid deployment, unlimited mission endurance and the capability to deploy the system while on the move (when obstacle clearance is secured). The system is especially useful in border protection, urban operations, surveillance missions and special operations, where an elevated sensor provides flexible deployment and wide area coverage.[/ismember]

In the stowed position the HoverMast automatically folds into a compact 72 cm diameter container, carried on a vehicle flatbed or roof, mounted on UGVs or All Terrain Vehicles (ATV), or small naval craft; making the system especially suited for Special Forces, border and port protection, and infantry missions.

AUS&R 2013 - The Unmanned Systems Live Demonstration - Israel - 26 November 2013
AUS&R 2013 – The Unmanned Systems Live Demonstration – Israel – 26 November 2013

Sky Sapience is currently developing three variants of the system – Hovermast 100 is the first model developed to meet the IDF requirements. A larger system, capable of carrying heavier payloads is being developed for a foreign customer. Two additional variants are also in progress – Hovermast M for use in maritime environments (on board manned or unmanned vessels) and Hovermast C, featuring simpler, a more affordable platform and intuitive operation is also designed for civilian operators.

Hovermast 100 tucked onto a pickup truck. The system integrates the tethered hovercraft and payload, tethered to the control system via cable that also feeds power, control and downloads sensor feeds in real time. Photo: Sky Sapience
Hovermast 100 tucked onto a pickup truck. The system integrates the tethered hovercraft and payload, tethered to the control system via cable that also feeds power, control and downloads sensor feeds in real time. Photo: Sky Sapience