INTERNATIONAL

GPS War: Israel’s Struggle to Maintain Drones in the Air and Opponents Confused

When Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on October 7, Omer Sharar had just received the first delivery of his innovative GPS anti-jamming device.

Ever then, he and his colleagues at the start-up InfiniDome, situated in Caesarea, north of Tel Aviv, have been working nonstop to stop cheap, easy jamming in Gaza from intercepting the Israeli army’s mini-drones.

Israel, one of the top exporters of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) worldwide, has been using huge, sophisticated aerial platforms to conduct a drone war along its borders for years. This has allowed Israel to observe its opponents remotely and attack them.

However, even smaller and less expensive drones that are used significantly more often have emerged during the Gaza War.

Over the last several years, Hamas has created a collection of inexpensive mini-drones that are fitted with explosive explosives.

As part of their historic strike that started the conflict with Israel, the terrorists used these devices on October 7 to drop bomblets on military observation stations along the security barrier around the Gaza Strip while avoiding identification and interception.

Israel has equipped its forces with small surveillance drones in addition to the bigger UAVs it still uses to monitor the beleaguered Palestinian territories. Artificial intelligence is used to recommend targets to soldiers on the ground.

These may penetrate buildings and tunnels to assess if they are safe for troops while flying at very low altitudes.

Satellite navigation systems, like the US government-owned Global Positioning System (GPS), allow devices to determine an exact position by receiving signals from many satellites circling the Earth.

However, the signal becomes weaker the closer it gets to the ground, which makes it simple and inexpensive to block stronger signals, rendering any drones that rely on GPS useless.

Israeli military were forced to equip their mini-UAVs with InfiniDome’s GPSdome2 technology, which was first released in March 2023, when Hamas militants began doing precisely that.

“We started delivering it to a couple of customers but actually, our first real production batch came more or less in September,” Sharar said to AFP.

He said that in some ways it was “perfect timing,” with workers being sent out as part of Israel’s reaction to the assault on October 7.

Because we had UAV operators here, a third of us were recruited into the reserve forces right away. Officers are employed by the corporation,” he said.

Despite not being among them, Chief Executive Sharar and the Chief Technical Officer of the firm committed themselves to contributing to the war effort.

“Both of us got into the company on Saturday (October 7) and we started doing final testing and packing up GPSdome2 and we started distributing them,” he said.

Israel has taken action to interfere with Hamas’s and other adversaries’ GPS systems in addition to safeguarding its own GPS use.

On October 7th, a minor degree of disruption was recorded over Gaza by the specialized website gpsjam.org, which aggregates geolocation signal disruption data based on airplane data reports.

However, the next day, there were further disturbances in the area around Palestinian land as well as near the northern border between Israel and Lebanon.

In the days that followed, the Israeli army claimed to have interfered with GPS “in a proactive manner for various operational needs.”

It predicted “various and temporary effects on location-based applications.”

For example, one AFP reporter on Jerusalem’s Abraham Lincoln Street showed on Google Maps as being in Nasr City, Cairo.

Waze, a mapping program, showed another person in the West Bank city of Jenin as being at the Beirut airport.

From Hamas to Hezbollah

After October 7, Todd E. Humphreys and his colleagues at the University of Texas in Austin began noticing an unusual pattern: the fleeting disappearance of aircraft approaching Israel from their screens.

That was explained by the technique known as spoofing, in which GPS data is purposefully altered to intentionally fool a GPS receiver about its true location.

“We get our data from low-Earth orbit satellites. Humphreys told AFP that “it looks like Israel is using GPS spoofing as a defensive tactic.”

“The false GPS signals fool receivers in the area around northern Israel into thinking that they are at the Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport.”

Tensions along Israel’s border with Lebanon have increased as a result of the Gaza War. Cross-border gunfights between the army and Hezbollah terrorists, who are supported by Iran, Israel’s worst opponent, have been happening almost every day.

According to its leader Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah is militarily stronger than Hamas, with advanced drones and precise missiles that can reach as far south as Israel.

Although Sharar and his group have been studying the Gaza War daily, they have their sights set on Lebanon, which they believe “may be a lot more explosive.”

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