Sixty years of near-constant war, a low tolerance for enduring casualties in conflict, and its high-tech industry have long made Israel one of the world's leading innovators of military robotics.
A tiny country is one of the world's leading high-tech hubs.
Over 40 countries have military-robotics programs today. The U.S. and much of the rest of the world is betting big on the role of aerial drones: Even Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite guerrilla force in Lebanon, flew four Iranian-made drones against Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War.
One shudders to think of Hezbollah using drones.
When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, it had just a handful of drones. Today, U.S. forces have around 7,000 unmanned vehicles in the air and an additional 12,000 on the ground, used for tasks including reconnaissance, airstrikes and bomb disposal.
7,000 aerial drones produce an overwhelming volume of data.
In 10 to 15 years, one-third of Israel's military machines will be unmanned, predicts Giora Katz, vice president of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., one of Israel's leading weapons manufacturers.
"The Israelis do it differently, not because they're more clever than we are, but because they live in a tough neighborhood and need to respond fast to operational issues," says Thomas Tate, a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who now oversees defense cooperation between the U.S. and Israel.
Their needs are too great to allow them to get bogged down. Every Israeli knows that the nation's security depends on getting things done.
G-nius Ltd., is essentially an armored off-road golf cart with a suite of optical sensors and surveillance gear. It was put into the field for the first time 10 months ago.
A fascinating website of a company with some innovative products. Rafael, too, is a fascinating website.
That is the Protector.
Military analysts say unmanned fighting vehicles could have a far-reaching strategic impact on the sort of asymmetrical conflicts the U.S. is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and that Israel faces against enemies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. In such conflicts, robotic vehicles will allow modern conventional armies to minimize the advantages guerrilla opponents gain by their increased willingness to sacrifice their lives in order to inflict casualties on the enemy.
Suicide bombers could be partially neutralized with such technology.
However, there are also fears that when countries no longer fear losing soldiers' lives in combat thanks to the ability to wage war with unmanned vehicles, they may prove more willing to initiate conflict.
A legitimate concern.
In coming years, engineers say unmanned air, sea and ground vehicles will increasingly work together without any human involvement. Israel and the U.S. have already faced backlash over civilian deaths caused by drone-fired missiles in Gaza, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those ethical dilemmas could increase as robots become more independent of their human masters.