More than anything else, the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon last summer convinced Israel of the need to research new ways to fight terrorists. One idea has now received funding: that of building small flying robots that can navigate streets and alleyways.
The "bionic hornet," writes Israel's daily Yedioth Ahronoth, could chase, photograph and kill, say, a terrorist hiding with a rocket launcher in a civilian neighborhood -- as an alternative to bombing the neighborhood.
The Israeli government plans to invest $230 million in nanotechnology research and development over the next five years, which would make nanoscience one of Israel's most heavily invested R&D fields.
"The war in Lebanon proved that we need smaller weaponry," said Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres. "It's illogical to send a plane worth $100 million against a suicidal terrorist. So we are building futuristic weapons."
Other ideas include miniature sensors to detect suicide bombers and "bionic man" gloves that would give the user super-human strength. Prototypes for the new weapons could be ready within three years, Peres said.
A "bionic hornet" would be an advance on pilotless drone aircraft, which the United States has used already against Al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last year, for example, the CIA killed a senior al-Qaida operative by firing a missile fired from a radio-controlled drone near the Afghan border.
But the problem with such weapons is that insurgents and terrorists can use them, too.
The Colombian military found nine small remote-controlled planes at a base it had taken from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in 2002, for example, and in April 2005 Hezbollah flew a drone over Israeli territory.
"We are observing an increasing threat from such things as remote-controlled aircraft used as small flying bombs against soft targets," said Michel Gauthier, the head of the Canadian secret services, at a security conference in Calgary last spring.
"Ultra-light aircraft, powered hang gliders or powered paragliders have also been purchased by terrorist groups to circumvent ground-based countermeasures" like radar, Gauthier said.