During the hostilities between Israel and the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah in 2006, some Israeli troops found themselves in enemy territory, cut off from their units, and left without water to drink. As a result of that experience, Israeli entrepreneurs set out to find a way to provide drinking water to military troops in the most remote, inaccessible and dangerous locations.
The challenging scenario inspired the “Atmospheric Water-Generator Unit,” a field device designed to suck water droplets out of the air and collect them into clean drinking water. The unit was invented by the Israeli company Water-Gen, founded by a former special forces commander in the Israel Defense Forces.
Though it might sound far-fetched to make water out of air, think of air-conditioning units with their water droplets falling to the ground, remnants of the humidity the machine sucked out of the air.
David Gillo, Water-Gen’s vice president of business development, said the idea is that “instead of continuously bringing convoys to remote locations, take a ground unit and produce water on the spot for the entire platoon or company in that specific location.”
The company says its objective is to keep troops safe that are operating in hostile environments.
“The attacks are simple. You’re driving trucks in convoy, there’s a lot of noise and you’re going in a direction everyone knows you’re going in. So it’s a problem” to get supplies including food, fuel and water to units in certain battlefield situations, Gillo told TheBlaze in an interview Wednesday from the company’s offices in central Israel.
Water-Gen’s “Ground Atmospheric Water-Generator Unit” is an independently-standing 5-foot cubical unit that produces water from the atmosphere, offering cold or ambient temperature water.
In addition to the stationary devices that can be erected on bases, the company produces a mobile unit for inside military vehicles using runoff water from the air-conditioning unit.
“In a vehicle there’s a dispenser so the troops don’t have to go outside the safety of the cabin and drink cold water. On a base, on the unit itself, you have a water dispenser, you put your canteen to the unit and get cold water to drink,” Gillo said.
“The system is optimized to operate in a wide range of environmental conditions. Units are scaled to fit military tactical vehicles, and can be produced in different dimensions and shapes,” the company states on its website.
Gillo said that three elements are key to the company’s technology: One, “We have a unique heat exchanging system that takes the humidity from the air, then we perform a water purification process.”
Second, the unit automatically moderates itself in response to the surrounding temperature and humidity to create the water in the most efficient manner.
And third, “We invented components for the unit which allows it to perform for its need, to make water from air,” Gillo said.
“Water from air is an un-walked field,” he added. “An air conditioner was not optimized to make water from air, rather to cool the house.”
The company, which opened its doors about four years ago, was recently named by Fast Company technology magazine as one of the world’s 10 most innovative companies based in Israel. Gillo told TheBlaze that it has sold its water generation unit to seven militaries, including to the U.S. and Israel.
Major Alisa Zevin who heads the IDF’s facilities and specialized-equipment department told Fast Company that adopting the Water-Gen system was “a revolution for us.”
“Soldiers often can get water from the tap or water tankers, but some soldiers get disconnected from their organic units,” Zevin said. “There are water sources in the field, but we don’t know their quality and don’t want to expose soldiers to contaminated water.”
“Water from air is more or less a clean source. It has its own problems like other water has,” Gillo explained. “The filtration effort is not as large as in groundwater sources. We continuously breathe water all the time. If we go into a creek or river, the chance we’ll be harmed from chemicals in the water or microbiological contamination is much larger than what is roaming around in the air.”
Water-Gen hopes to expand to other far-flung locations beyond military deployments. It most recently sent one of its units with Israeli search-and-rescue crews deployed to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan last year.
Here is a video produced by the company on its water purification systems: