Soldiers in the IDF’s elite Skylark unit, nicknamed the “Sky Riders,” usually begin their missions the same way. The forces march toward a meeting point while some members carry large bags of equipment. Moments later, the troops set up a hidden position and fill it with television screens.
Upon reaching their post, a few Sky Riders unpack mechanical parts from their backpacks. The soldiers quickly begin assembling the pieces, building aerial drones called Skylarks for their upcoming operation.
Weighing only seven kilograms, the drones are small, efficient and practically unnoticeable in the air. Equipped with a live video feed, they can fly for up to three hours, at night and in all weather conditions without being detected.
Skylarks are some of the IDF’s most effective technology. Thanks to the precise intelligence they provide, Israel uses them in almost every major mission. The ongoing search for three kidnapped teens, called Operation Brother’s Keeper, is no exception.
Enhancing the search for terrorists
Since the recent kidnapping in Judea and Samaria, the Skylark unit has provided valuable information to enhance the IDF’s search for the three boys. As the drones capture images from above, soldiers develop a clear picture of terrorist activity and direct forces to suspects on the ground.
Once the Skylarks are assembled, the forces attach them to elastic cords, pull them back and launch them forward like slingshots. As soldiers guide the aircraft using joysticks, cameras transmit images to the soldiers on the ground. The troops quickly interpret the video and send intelligence to soldiers in the field.
“Since the morning of June 13 [when the operation began], we have been assisting soldiers throughout Judea and Samaria,” says Captain Yochai Varsno, a company commander in the unit. “Our troops play a critical role in the ongoing mission, and we wouldn’t be able to carry out large parts of our operation without them.”
“We assist all the forces operating in the area,” Cpt. Varsno explains. “As soon as we identify [a target], we can notify the other forces. When they ask to see a house, we can show them the structure and any movement nearby.”
The main work of the soldiers in the operation is to assist with arrests. At night, the unit takes part in operational activity, enabling troops to arrest terrorists connected to the kidnapping.
“We are spreading our troops [throughout the region], attaching them to units that carry out arrests,” Cpt. Varsno says. “Our work makes sure that no terrorists can escape.”
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