From Missiles To Deadly Viruses: Iron Dome Architects Develop Innovative Defenses Against COVID-19
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Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has been constantly under attack. Wars on all fronts, terror attacks in the streets, persistent missile fire and uncountable other threats have left it with no other option but to build an effective response.
Consequently, Israel has become a bellwether of defense systems, and its innovative solutions are studied by experts and agencies around the world.
Constantly rethinking its doctrine, Israel’s responses to the incessant barrage of new threats reflect quick thinking, rapid paradigm shifts, creativity, and mind-blowing innovation.
It is no wonder, then, that in the battle against COVID, Israel has called upon its most creative, innovative force.
DDR&D (Directorate of Defense Research and Development), also known as MAFAT is the main defense development R&D organization of the Israel Ministry of Defense. Supporting the entire Israeli defense community, it manages and implements advanced scientific and technological projects in the fields of missile defense, UAVs, space and satellites, cyber, munition, and more, based on the current and future national defense challenges.
Coordinating between the Ministry of Defense, the IDF (Israeli Defense Force), IMI and IAI, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the Institute for Biological Research & the Space Agency, DDR&D uses synergy to produce effective solutions that save countless lives. Examples include AI-powered platforms for future armored fighting vehicles (AFV), developing the Arrow, an anti-ballistic missile, stealth tanks, sniper drones, and the famous air defense system, Iron Dome.
Fighting Terror By Day, Corona By Night
For the last two months, in addition to its regular tasks, DDR&D’s greatest minds have been using their unique know-how to develop the most effective responses to the latest international threat. “During a meeting with the Prime minister, back in March”, says DDR&D’s Director, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Dr. Dani Gold, “I decided to take on this mission and use all the tools at our disposal to fight this virus.”
A National Technology Center was immediately established to manage new R&D programs and adapt defense technologies to meet the needs of the healthcare system. Representatives of dozens of elite institutions, universities, research organizations, startups and medical centers were brought together to brainstorm and explore different initiatives, which, regardless of their original purpose, could be redirected to the medical field. “We are used to operating in conditions of uncertainty,” says Gold. “We also know that where there is uncertainty, there is plenty of room for creativity, initiative and innovation.”
DDR&D incorporates characteristics of a startup; it specializes in the ‘spiral model’ that connects ‘consumers’ with scientists and development engineers.
Some military devices have quickly adapted for medical use: The Maya Sticker, which can now be attached to a face mask in order to increase its protective capabilities, was initially used to cover combat wounds or to detect explosive materials. The Radar systems, originally used for border defense, were developed together with defense industries Elbit and IAI. They are now used to measure the vital signs of patients, thereby minimizing the exposure of medical staff to virus carriers.
Together with IAI and the Israeli startup Inovytec, a missile production line has been altered and expanded to produce life-saving ventilators for the Israeli Ministry of Health.
Collaborative work with multiple companies, industries and startups has also resulted in urgently needed products, some of which are already in use:
Collaboration with civilian companies such as Temi has resulted in the adaptation of special robots for the purpose of assisting medical staff and reducing their exposure to virus carriers. The B. Robots perform various tasks such as delivering medicine to patients. These are already in use in the largest Israeli hospitals.
Together with the Israeli startup Anyvision, DDR&D is also working on reducing the spread of the virus within medical institutions. The newly developed system performs epidemiological research within hospitals to determine who among the medical personnel has come in contact with a virus carrier and therefore should be in quarantine. This eliminates the closure of entire hospital wards.
Yanshuf, a Breath Analyzer developed by the local startup Tera Group, together with DDR&D and the IDF, is probably one of the most exciting developments yet. This simple, non-invasive and on the spot diagnostic test identifies whether the patient is a carrier of the virus or is healthy. Recognizing the advantages of this rapid testing mechanism, the team reached out to medical professionals at Israel’s largest hospital, Sheba Tel Hashomer and began to conduct clinical trials. As of today, over 1000 samples have been tested. “We are currently in the ‘validation’ stage”, says Gold, “which requires the analysis of results and perhaps further testing before we can apply for permits from the Ministry of Health. We expect the testing and approvals to be completed in the coming months and then we can begin mass-production of the test.”
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, DDR&D’s effective harnessing of existing and emerging technologies has created an impressive range of solutions. The organization does not market or make commercial launches of products and is fully aimed to deliver rapid, practical and beneficial technology to combat the pandemic, assist the healthcare systems and enable the general public to return to routine.
It has proven again that synergy, technology, and ingenuity is the answer to any threat that comes their way.
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