IAI will launch the Eros-C high-resolution optical Earth imaging satellite in 2019, said ISI's CEO Noam Segal to Space News Magazine.
Segal said that military use of satellite imagery is becoming more difficult to the extent that militaries are interested in counterterrorism operations in addition to their historic use of satellites to collect views of large military installations.
“There was a focus in the last decade of space-based sensors being based on high-density conflict,” Segal said. “It’s quite clear how we can use a satellite sensor to monitor submarine bases and airfields. It’s an easy game for most of the customer base.
“But how to use space-based sensors for counterterrorism – here there is no clear solution. It is harder. It takes more proficiency in working with the system to deal with counter-terror.”
Segal assumed his post in late 2015 after a military career that he said included 2,500 hours operating UAVs. ImageSat personnel, he said, have a total of around 6,000 hours of hands-on UAV operations experience.
Here is how Segal described the misunderstanding among many UAV customers of the technology’s cost and limitations:
“It is clear to most of the customers we are dealing with why they can use UAVs, even if the UAV is definitely not the solution to the problem,” Segal said. “The role for us is doing the patient work with the customer base to provide the end game so that they can become, later, a customer for the (satellite) data.
“Some of the customers in the defense community do not understand the limitations of UAVs, especially in an anti-access, area-denial environment. Most of these customers operate in these environments, and UAVs are not the most suitable solution for their data-acquisition plans.
“Second, a UAV operator lives in a 25-square-meter environment. Satellites are much more adaptable for wide-area surveillance. If the event is tactical and persistence is needed, then UAV is a good solution. But for most of the areas where we are operating, they are not a good match at all, not in the performance.
“By the way, a UAV’s footprint in terms of human resources and cost is outrageous. People don’t appreciate this. It seems to be very easy; it’s not. The operator base is quite narrow. You see it with the United Nations tenders in Africa: The time from tendering to deployment is six to 10 months, and for a full operational capability it is sometimes 12 months, whereas a satellite can provide data within days.
“So I think UAVs are complementary, and they are not a real competition to people who understand the limitations.”