Israel’s ‘light blade’ laser may finally answer Gaza’s burning kites and fire balloons

The “light blade” system is world’s first with the ability to knock down kites and balloons, the Israeli police say.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s police have successfully tested a new weapon in its arsenal that it says is the world’s first to destroy the fire kites and arson balloons that have threatened Israel from the Gaza Strip, Israel Hayom reports. It can also take down armed drones – a threat coming mainly from Iranian-sponsored militias in the north.

Called “Light Blade,” it is a laser system that looks much like a miniature Iron Dome, the anti-missile defense system that protects Israel from short-range rocket attack. It tracks the suspicious airborne object, locks onto it, and blasts it with a unique laser beam. If it is a balloon loaded with flammable material, it will explode. If it is a drone, its motor will be burned out and it will crash.

The Light Blade can work in the night as well as in the day, and has about a two-kilometer range. It is also cheap enough, say the police, that it will enable the security forces to equip themselves quickly with a large quantity of them.

The system was developed over the past year by three experts in electro-optics and lasers: Prof. Ami Yeshaya, Dr. Rami Aharoni and Dr. Udi Ben Ami. They established a company called OptiDefense to create the technology, signing a cooperative agreement with the police to do so.

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The project was led by Border Police chief Yaakov Shabtai. The Technology Research Department of the Border Police, Ben Gurion University, and the Infrastructure Development and Technology departments of the IDF were all involved in designing the model.

While the security authorities helped fund the venture, several private investors also chipped in. Altogether, the working model cost about a million dollars to develop.

Israel’s Channel 12 News witnessed a string of tests that the Light Blade passed with flying colors.

“The system provides an almost complete response to the threat of balloons and kites and provides an effective and safe solution to the drone threat,” Shabtai told the network.

Arson balloons flown from the Gaza Strip have caused millions of dollars of ecological damage in the south, burning thousands of acres of cropland and forests.

Armed drones are seen more as a threat from the North, as the army has had to deal with these airborne attacks launched from Syria by Iranian forces.

In April of last year, an IDF helicopter shot down an armed drone in Israeli airspace, while this past August, the IDF carried out a pre-emptive air strike near Damascus to foil an incipient Iranian drone attack it had been tracking for months.

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The new technology is in the process of being patented.