Following the abduction of three teens in Gush Etzion Thursday, forces from the IDF's Sky Rider unit have fanned out in the region and are assisting in collection of intelligence.
The unit specializes in operating unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, and the aircraft are performing a variety of missions – mostly, extensively combing both uninhabited and inhabited areas for signs of the missing youths.
"From the morning hours of Friday, we are in action in order to assist the forces in the Judea and Samaria sectors,” the commander of a Sky Rider battalion, Captain Yohai Versano, told the IDF Website. “Afterward, we provided security for forces that took part in special operations in the sector.” The other Sky Rider teams also took part in collection of intelligence in Judea and Samaria as well as other relevant sectors.
UAVs have some distinct advantages over other means of data collection in this kind of intelligence mission. “We are at the immediate disposal of the company commander and the force carrying out the operation. We assist all of the forces operating in the arena in their missions. We will collect information before the operation and relay it to the force,” explained Versano. “Once there is an identification, we can interface with observation units and the forces on the ground. If they ask to see a house, I can show them the house and the road leading to it, that is our main purpose here.”
The UAV unit participated in nighttime operations, including the large number of arrests that were carried out following the abduction. “They divided up the teams, which joined up with the different units that carried out arrests. They assisted in the arrest itself as well as opening up the route of movement. We made sure no one could run away.”