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Hurlable 360° cam-grenades used by IDF in Gaza

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Israeli war-tech boffins appear to have stolen a march on those of Blighty in the matter of the long-sought 360° wireless camera grenade, which can be hurled or shot through a door, window etc and so give combat troops a picture of what lies beyond.

To mild media fanfare, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced last November that such a device - dubbed "I-ball" - is under development by British designers.

"The technology behind I-Ball is an exciting new development that has very significant potential... particularly in difficult urban operations," said MoD tech chief Professor Andrew Baird.

"We are very excited about the technology's potential to help our troops," added Paul Thompson of Dreampact, the UK firm developing the cam-grenade with MoD funding.

However, when the I-Ball arrives (it was "in its early stages" at the end of 2008, apparently) it will not be new or exciting. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have such equipment ready to use, and indeed have used it.

According to the IDF website, the recent Gaza strip incursion by Israel - referred to as "Operation Cast Lead" - saw the combat baptism of a piece of kit called "Bull Island":

Bull Island, which is a camera shaped as a tennis ball that can be thrown into any building and transfers 360 degree imagery to the troops on the ground outside of the structure. This camera, as well as other robots, used by the IDF helped to identify booby-trapped houses, or buildings with armed terrorists, thus minimizing the risk of IDF casualties.

So it would appear that I-Ball or something very like it is already to be had. If we British taxpayers corporately believe that such a gizmo would save our troops' lives - and that after all is why we're developing I-Ball, apparently - we should just buy some Bull Islands. The Israelis would certainly sell - they're already supplying the British Army with surveillance drones.

Why, it's almost as though the MoD procurement budget was more about industrial subsidy than about equipping troops and saving lives. ®

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