The border with Gaza is one of Israel’s most tense regions. Hamas snipers, anti-tank missiles and explosives threaten IDF soldiers whose job it is to patrol the security fence on the border.
To counter these threats, the IDF has introduced the Guardium Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV), which patrols the Gaza fence around the clock. “The most important aspect of the Guardium is that it saves human lives — and money, too,” said Lt. Avidav, Head of the Guardium Division.
How It Works
The Guardium is unarmed, but is equipped with 360 degree cameras and a loudspeaker. It is highly mobile, which means that it can stream images from various angles and gather more data than a stationary camera can.
Infantry soldiers often patrol alongside the Guardium, which can detect threats from a distance. If it spots something suspicious, the soldiers in the command room immediately notify the foot soldiers in the field of the danger.
What It Takes to Operate the UGV
Back in the control room, soldiers — all of whom are women — operate the Guardium with joysticks, gear pedals, a steering wheel and monitors that broadcast a live feed from the field.
Soldiers who want to join the Guardium unit must have a driver’s license for automatic and manual transmissions. “Applicants must be able to focus intensively since the job demands being glued to a screen without interruption for six hour shifts,” said Lt. Avidav.
Once accepted to the unit, the soldiers go through a four-month course before sitting “behind the wheel” of the Guardium. As part of the course, the new soldiers participate in drivers training courses on a Jeep as well as a Tomcar.
Five Examples of the Guardium in Action
- The Guardium spots a suspicious person in Gaza approaching the border fence with Israel. Soldiers in the command room switch on the loud speaker and order the suspect to freeze. Ground forces are quickly called to the scene.
- Guardium operators detect the entrance to a smuggling tunnel on the Gaza side of the fence. The soldiers in the command room notify ground forces in the area to watch out for potential ambushes from the tunnel.
- The Guardium spots a footprint on a dirt path adjacent to the security fence, indicating that someone recently crossed into Israeli territory. Soldiers in the command room alert the expert IDF trackers, the Desert Reconnaisance Battalion, who send forces to the area.
- After the terrorist attack from Egypt on August 5, 2012, the Guardium patrols the Israel-Gaza-Egypt border areas for 80 hours until the broken fence can be repaired.
- During Nakba Day riots on the Gaza border, the Guardium observes a suspect digging a hole near the fence.
The Future of Unmanned Ground Vehicles
In the next two years, the current model of the UGV will be placed by a bigger Ford F-350-based model with a weapon mounted on top.
Lt. Avidav made it clear that people from all over the world are coming to southern Israel to check out his Guardium UGV. He says that in the near future, the Guardium will be an even more critical tool for defending the people of Israel.