Israel’s First Fully Autonomous Drone Uses AI to Conduct Real-Life Missions

“So is the word that issues from My mouth: It does not come back to Me unfulfilled, But performs what I purpose, Achieves what I sent it to do.” Isaiah 55:11 (The Israel Bible™)

Israeli tech company Percepto will soon unveil a rugged autonomous drone with unheard-of Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities to advance security missions with real-life applications, a product the company says could only have been developed in Israel, the world capital of defense innovation.

On January 15, Percepto will showcase, for the first time in the field, the Sparrow I, a rugged drone specifically designed for harsh industrial environments.

While drones are widely used in the civilian market as toys, Sparrow I is a serious, fully autonomous drone with defense applications. While other drones’ autonomous capabilities only include flying, Percepto’s drone is the first fully autonomous drone with real-life mission applications. It uses machine vision and artificial intelligence to conduct security, safety and inspection missions, collecting and analyzing data in real-time, which it then provides to its customers.

The Israeli innovation is helping a range of some of the world’s most important and well-known companies better protect sensitive and strategic assets, such as oil and gas refineries, power plants, shipping ports and sea terminals.

“Percepto is a company started with the idea of creating real-time applications for drones to conduct autonomous real-life missions,” Ariel Avitan, Percepto Chief Commercial Officer, told Breaking Israel News.

“What we’ve added is a drone base station that can charge autonomously and a cloud software system that manages the drones on-site. On top of that, we create machine-based applications that allow drones to work 24/7 and do specific security and safety missions autonomously,” he said.

Sparrow I (Courtesy Percepto)

The main pool of customers for the innovation includes industries that use heavy utilities and critical infrastructure. “They include gas companies, big data sites, and facilities that need a high level of security, safety, maintenance, and inspection within the site,” Avitan told Breaking Israel News.

“Their main incentive is 24/7 work to reduce human labor on the security side and make their maintenance cycles much more effective on an ongoing basis.”

He explained, “Manpower for security costs a lot of money. US guards for nuclear sites cost $100,000 plus benefits per person. For 24 hours, companies need 3-5 guards per shift. Annually, that’s half a million dollars for one person to be on a shift. It is very hard to keep up with costs of security, and the added security that drones bring has the ability to autonomously detect [security threats] day or night and reduces human patrol.”

Thus, in order to replace guards and maintenance personnel year-round, the drones are built to work in harsh conditions, year round, 24/7, from the -20°C Milwaukee weather to the 50°C weather of the Mojave desert.  

Today, four years since launching, Percepto is 23 employees strong and based in Modiin, Israel. According to Avitan, it is no coincidence that an Israeli-based company innovated this technology that is so relevant to the needs of modern security challenges.

“Israel has many security needs that have to do with high-end technology and need to make sure that the Israeli security is one step ahead,” said Avitan, who identified machine vision as particularly important for the Israeli military capability.

Due to the terrorist threat that Israel faces, comprising of “terrorist organizations that use these technologies for own interest,” Avitan told Breaking Israel News, “Israel is a leading country in anti-drone capabilities, including GPS interference, and autonomous systems, to make sure threats are taken down before harm is caused.”

He also maintained that the Israeli army fosters strong research and development personnel from Israeli airspace companies and defense units within the IDF.

“No doubt that experience coming from Israel is a main component in our ability to deliver high-end systems and large defense and military requirements. With Israel’s army training, it is much easier to provide industrial grade systems and to deploy very good commercialized solutions for the industry,” Avitan said.

Percepto’s Israeli drone-making know-how has already crossed borders, fulfilling incoming requests from many sectors, including other countries’ homeland security departments.

Although he could not specify which countries requested the technology, he concluded, “We already have requests from European countries, Southeast Asian countries, and the US. We have no doubt that there will be applications in the defense arena.”