Israel is planning to bolster its high-tech arsenal by deploying fully autonomous military vehicles along the country’s dangerous border with Gaza, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) official told FoxNews.com, citing the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), snipers, anti-tank missiles and terrorist tunnels.
Working with Israeli defense specialist Elbit Systems, IDF has equipped Ford F-350 pickup trucks with specialized remote driving technology. The trucks, dubbed Border Protector Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), are also fitted with four driving cameras and a 360-degree observation camera to help operators identify threats. At the moment, the vehicles are unarmed.
UGV testing began in July 2015 and the trucks became operational in February.
Currently, each vehicle is driven by an operator in a remote control room using a steering wheel, joystick and pedals. In the next few months, the Israeli Army aims to deploy the UGVs semi-autonomously, with the vehicle driving toward a map coordinate set by its operator. The trucks, however, will still need their operators to guide them around any obstacles in their path.
Longer-term, the trucks will need less human intervention. “In the future, we will have the capability of fully autonomous driving,” the IDF official added, noting that the UGVs will autonomously navigate any obstacles in their path.
Troops can also drive the UGVs traditionally from the driver’s seat.
The UGV replaces the semi-autonomous Guardium vehicle that was deployed by Israeli forces in 2009.