Naval gazing: Elbit Systems takes its portable drone tech to the seas

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The Skylark C uses the company's existing drone tech, but in waterproof form

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Drones have developed quite a reputation for their reconnaissance capacity over land, but lately we are seeing some interesting ideas around how they can be put to work at sea, such as drones that launch from underwater and those that guide icebreakers along treacherous routes. Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems wants to be part of this conversation, today announcing a waterproof drone that can be recovered and launched again within 15 minutes.

Elbit Systems has experience building drones big and small for military applications, but it is the company's more mobile offering that has inspired its latest machine. The new Skylark C is based on the Skylark I mini-drone, a packable recon tool designed for ground troops to send on beyond-the-next-hill scouting missions.

With quiet electrical propulsion, autonomous flight and day-and-night-observation capabilities, the Skylark I — or versions of it — have been used in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and deployed by the armed forces of Israel, Australia and France.

Now Elbit Systems wants small naval units to get in on the action. The Skylark C uses the company's existing drone tech and is loaded with an advanced inertial navigation system, a stabilized electro-optical sensor, a high-resolution thermal imager and a color daylight camera, but in a waterproof and buoyant form.

The drone can be used to observe targets or perform ongoing surveillance or recon, and when the mission comes to an end, it deploys a parachute-based landing mechanism to safely sit and float on the water. Elbit Systems says that pilots can then scoop it up and have it ready to fly again within 15 minutes, and that it only requires two people to operate.

"Until recently, the ability to achieve real-time maritime situational awareness and ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) capabilities in a short period of time and with minimal resources remained a significant gap," said Elad Aharonson, General Manager of Elbit Systems ISTAR Division. "Now, with Skylark C, small-scale naval crews, such as special operations forces and coast guard patrols, can capture mission-critical information using a truly intuitive and organic system, and as a result significantly improve their operational effectiveness."

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