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  • Writer's pictureIdo Yahalomi

How the JNF and High Lander Built a Drone Fleet to Protect Israel’s Forests

Israel, 11 July 2022

Did you know that all of Israel’s chief forest inspectors are also drone pilots?

Why is that important and how did it come about?

The JNF (Jewish National Fund) is a non-profit organization and a United Nations NGO. Since its establishment in 1901, as part of a long-term vision, the JNF’s Forestry and Green Innovation Program has planted over 250 million trees, built over 250 reservoirs and dams, created more than 2,000 parks, and developed over 250,000 acres of land (Source: The Jewish National Fund website).

The JNF has a team of ten chief forest inspectors, each in charge of a different region. As well as general management of the forests in their region, the inspectors are responsible for protecting their forests from vandalism, illegal wood chopping, and wildfires.

Screenshot of High Lander's Mission Control PRO Platform
High Lander's Mission Control PRO Platform

Combining drone technology with forest monitoring

In 2020, the JNF decided to try out drone technology to monitor plots of land. It was hoped that this would be better than the satellite images they had been using since 2015 to receive images of large tracts of land. They purchased one remote control drone to research how drones could be used in the future to help monitor the forests. They found that the drone footage was far more detailed and at a higher resolution than the satellite footage. They could be flexible and send out drones at any time of day, even on overcast days, when the satellites did not send clear images due to cloud cover. (Source: Zavit website).

However, this method was incredibly time consuming. Their drone had a battery life of 35 minutes. In this time, they need to launch the drone, send it to the correct places, then land it, download the footage and compare the images, while charging the drone so it could be sent up again. If something was unclear, it could be hours or even days until they were able to check again.

The need for early identification of wildfires

Around the same time, the Israel Fire and Rescue Authority approached the JNF to try and collaborate on an efficient way to spot wildfires early. The 2010 Mount Carmel Forest fire is one of the worst ever civilian disasters in Israel, with a death toll of 44 and over 12,000 acres of forest burnt. Sadly, huge wildfires have become an unfortunate recurring feature of the hot Israeli climate where the dryness combined with the wind means that a fire can spread rapidly, destroying acres of forest and threatening the lives of the people who live nearby.

The JNF’s success with their first drone prompted them to consider that perhaps drone technology could be helpful as an eye-in-the-sky to spot the beginnings of a forest fire. However, just one drone was never going to be enough to monitor all the forests in the country. In addition, an individual operator only had access to the footage of their own drone. They were unable to form a national picture, or to share data with other forest inspectors, meaning that the drones were only partially useful.

Drone fleets are the answer

The JNF approached High Lander which came to the forest with a fleet of drones to run demos. Together, High Lander and the JNF realized that what was needed was a command center to collect and consolidate the video footage and data from multiple drones to maximize the potential for gathering information and understanding where immediate action was needed. The JNF also wanted the ability to share the information with third parties such as the Fire and Rescue Authority.

“We love a challenge that has practical applications to solve a problem. Collaboration between JNF and High Lander proved that its Mission Control PRO platform was a ready solution for all our needs,” says Col. Ret. Moni Katz

Today the JNF has fifteen drones of different sizes including the DJI Mavic Mini, DJI Enterprise and DJI Matrice, and three mobile command centers. All the JNF’s chief forest inspectors have been trained as drone pilots and operators of High Lander’s Mission Control PRO Platform. Using Mission Control PRO, the forest inspectors can control the drones as a fleet, working together as a team to not only streamline operations but also share data, with each other and third parties, immediately and efficiently. The Forest Services have a national picture of what is occurring in real-time in forests all over Israel, enabling them to quickly respond to wildfires.

Unexpected benefits

An unexpected benefit of the drone fleet was the ability to spot illegal wood chopping and forest vandalism. One day, as an inspector was flying his drone on a regular scheduled flyover of a section of forest in Northern Israel, he spotted a fallen tree. Mission Control PRO allows the drone pilot to change the camera angle and make mid-mission changes to the flight - so the inspector was able to look around and spot the criminals in action. The ability to easily share data and footage with third parties meant that the police were notified immediately and were able to catch the perpetrators.

Exciting ramifications

This surprising event led to a collaboration between the JNF’s forest inspectors and local police forces to fight illegal wood cutting and forest crimes using drone technology. This in turn led to the Israeli Police Force adopting High Lander’s Mission Control PRO platform for their own fleet of 180 police drones that are used to track terror attacks, evacuations, and raids, as well as for the prevention and follow up of serious crimes.

Today, Mission Control PRO is being used by Police forces in locations all over the world, including Pascoe County, Florida where drones are also used by local officers to patrol the coasts.

“We are thrilled that High Lander’s Mission Control PRO platform is being implemented by first responders and emergency services to make the world safer for everyone” said Alon Abelson, CEO and Co-Founder of High Lander.

Why Mission Control PRO is a perfect choice

High Lander’s Mission Control PRO platform is proven to be a great choice for drone fleet management for emergency services and first responders. With the ability to coordinate a fleet of up to 250 drones in one location, Mission Control PRO is also “drone agnostic”, working with all brands and sizes of drones. This means it can integrate drones of different makes and models into one streamlined fleet. The 4K resolution means that images and footage are crisp, clear and detailed. It’s easy to share video footage and data with third parties in real-time, allowing different services to work together for faster and more efficient resolution. High Lander’s unique algorithms identify obstacles and prevent accidents, thus creating a flight zone that is always safe and precision landing means your drone will always return safely home.

Most importantly, Mission Control PRO is user-friendly and easy to learn. That means that forest inspectors, police officers and firefighters can all fly a Level 5 fully autonomous drone and still be in full control of the mission, integrating their special knowledge in their field with the greatest of drone technology available, and making the world a safer place for the rest of us.

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