The Jerusalem Post is reporting that four months after the crash of one of Israel’s Heron TP drones (UAVs) that its Heron TP fleet is still grounded. Israel had touted the airliner sized drone was capable of reaching Iran, and was trying to sell the drone to other countries, including Germany. France had agreed to buy the Heron prior to the crash, but hasn’t signed the deal.
One wing fell off the drone when it was asked to perform a flight manoeuver beyond its capabilities. According to JP the Israeli Air Force suspected that a new navigation component had disrupted automatic flight systems.
The crash presents Israel and IAI, the company that produces the Heron TP, with enormous problems. At least three components of the drone appear to have been implicated in the failure. The new navigation component may be a threat to other components. By implication the original automatic flight system is vulnerable to interference. And most of all, what country will want to buy a UAV with an airframe so weak that it fails during flight manoeuvres, however extreme.
It remains to be seen whether the new government of France will use the crash as an excuse to cancel the contract. Crash has seriously undermined the credibility of Israel’s heretofore invulnerable drones industry, and must be a drag on its plans to export drones worldwide. The crash presents an opportunity for European campaigners to influence the new French government to cancel the contract to purchase the Heron TP
One of the legs of Israel’s threat to Iran has been compromised at a time when the last possible window for it to attack its neighbour is approaching. Drones crash at an alarming rate. This crash and the crash of a sophisticated US spy drone in Iran earlier in the year show just how vulnerable that drones can be, and how their electronic systems are subject to failure induced internally or from defensive forces.