Controp is Examining New Directions - Interview with CEO

July 2013, published by Israel Defense


Dror Sharon has been appointed as CEO of CONTROP in a period of significant changes. The company, established in the late 1990s by former IAF officers and IAI's payload division Tamam, has changed hands. Rafael and the UAV manufacturer Aeronautics recently acquired Controp's total holdings, and now hold equal shares of its stock (Aeronautics previously owned 20% of CONTROP's stock).

Prior to his appointment as CEO of CONTROP, Sharon served as the CEO of Opgal, a company jointly owned by Rafael and Elbit Systems. Opgal provides components for payloads, among other things – to CONTROP and to other payload manufacturers.
On the eve of the 2013 Paris Air Show, Dror Sharon said in an interview to IsraelDefense that CONTROP has and will remain dedicated primarily to payloads. However, the company is currently reviewing fields of activity on which it will focus in the coming years.

CONTROP grew in the world of payloads, initially for manned aircraft and later for UAVs. However, the payloads it develops are also intended for stationary ground masts, vehicles, surveillance aerostats and naval vessels. The company benefited from development grants it received from defense establishment elements in Israel and in the US. One of its flagship products is the M-Stamp (Stabilized Multi-Sensor Miniature Payload), a tiny payload that can be installed on UAVs weighing just a few kilograms and intended for tactical missions.

The M-Stamp weighs just 1.2 kg and contains a stabilized daytime camera with continuous zoom and an uncooled night camera with two fields of view. CONTROP also offers a daytime-only version of the same payload, which weighs less than 800 grams.

The small payload is already installed onboard Elbit Systems' Skylark-I UAV, which is employed by the IDF Artillery Corps. Such payloads will be incorporated in projects by Aeronautics (which is expected to supply the Orbiter-2 UAV to the armed forces of Finland and Thailand), as well as in a UAV by Bluebird Aero Systems (according to various publications, Bluebird is expected to sell UAVs to Chile).

Another CONTROP payload is the Speed-V, a scanning camera intended for installation on a tall mast carried by an armored vehicle. The camera weighs 24 kg and collects imagery data. It enables a 360-degree scanning of the area being covered. The camera entered operational service in one of Israel's security agencies.

CONTROP also presented the VMOS (Vehicle Modular Mast Observation System), a payload containing daytime and night cameras, mounted on a mast that extends to a height of up to five meters and can be installed on various vehicles. Another system presented at the Paris Air Show for the first time was the Speed-A payload, designed specifically for aerostats, which features four stabilization levels that guarantee a stabilized image even under strong winds that deflect the aerostat.

The Speed-A payload has been in operational service within the IDF for several years, in sectors regarded as sensitive, such as the Gaza Strip and the Egyptian border.

CONTROP presently employs approximately 210 employees at the company's HQ and at its development center in Hod HaSharon, as well as in its US subsidiary. Approximately 8% of the company's revenue is allocated to future product R&D.

Is CONTROP facing a change of direction pursuant to the change of ownership?
"We are learning how to be assisted by the marketing mechanisms of Rafael and Aeronautics. Beyond that, the company is currently reviewing the directions it will take. There are significant segments in the HLS field and the company is well known in the military field. At the moment, an effort is underway to position the company in the various markets, along with an effort to combine products."We have carried out a significant organizational change. For example, in the past, we had two parallel development elements, and now we have a single, unified element that manages all of our projects."95% of CONTROP's sales is for 'integrators', chief project contractors, and not for 'end users'. Nevertheless, CONTROP is currently expanding its product range so as to be able to offer comprehensive solutions that incorporate payloads and C2 capabilities.

Do you see the future in the continued miniaturization of payloads?
"Payloads are becoming increasingly smaller with no performance degradation."

Will you be entering the market for low-cost payloads?
"We do not manufacture low-cost payloads, but we do provide a high cost-benefit ratio and do our best to further improve the ratio by decreasing the costs of our suppliers and by introducing changes in the manufacturing process.

Do you identify the current bottleneck in the transfer of data from the payloads in the air, on land and at sea to the control stations?
"We are currently examining how to improve the transfer of data from the payloads to the C2 stations. We have a few ideas for this field, as well."