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Prof. Daniel Weihs


By Rhonda Spivak, August 3, 2010

Distinguished Professor Daniel Weihs of the Technion Institute in Haifa  will  be speaking in Winnipeg  not only about his own research  regarding unmanned aerial vehicles, but about  Technion’s contributions to the field of engineering, the Israeli  aircraft industry and  economy. He will also speak about the the new planned Technion  Centre for Autonomous Systems which he will  direct. His lecture at the Berney Theatre at the Asper Campus at 7:30 on August 25 is free of charge.

By the tender age of two years very  few people know they want to be  an aerospace engineer.  But  Danny Weihs did. As a child, Prof. Weihs lived near a US Air Force base in China, where he was born in 1942 after his parents fled Austria. The family was invited to attend a Seder at the base, during which one of the soldiers asked  the toddler what he wanted to be when he grew up. Inspired by the sight of the planes flying overhead in and out of the base, the young Weihs replied, “an aerospace engineer.” 

In an interview, Dr. Weihs noted that the Technion Institute, a world class  institute of science and technology is the “main source” of engineers in Israel.

“Over--over 70% of engineers in Israel are graduates of Technion. It has contributed to a large number of start ups and served as the breeding ground for Israeli development centres for companies such as  IBM, Intel, Google, Microsoft, Qualcomm etc.”

Technion’s faculty of Electrical Engineering is ranked among the top 15 in the world, while its faculties of Engineering/Technology, and Computer Sciences are also ranked among the top 40 in the world.

As Weihs told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, in his upcoming talk , entitled  “From Satellites to Artificial Mosquitoes – Robotic Systems at Technion,”  he’ll speak about  “the Israeli aircraft industry,” as well as  about “ tanks developed by Israel, and  communications techniques, all developed by Technion graduates.” He’ll also speak about   “the contributions to unmanned aeriel vehicles, and methods of treating crash and burn victims  developed by Technion faculty.”

Weihs, who has been a consultant to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, has adapted principles observed in the natural world into his high-tech research. Weihs’s  own research into  “ the ways that birds cope with turbulence and maneuver”  has enabled him to  find ways “to improve piloted and unmanned aerial vehicle performance.”   

At present Weihs is working with a  group at the University of Western Ontario on studying the flight of Osprey birds.

“These birds can lift fish [that are heavy relative to the weight of the birds] out of the water and take off rapidly… We hope to learn form this.”

 For example, his  observation of dandelions  led to the development nano-sized “parachutes” that can detect toxins in the air. As Weihs explained,

“ We [at the Technion] found the aerodynamic mechanism by which  dandelion seeds can stay in the air for long periods of time and applied it to to building small (5m or less) sized flying vehicles. The idea is that at these small sizes the air is very viscous (like honey) and stranded or combed-like bodies act like full wing structures.”

Weihs’s studies of fish has enabled him to improve submarine design and also helped prevent dolphins from being destroyed in the drift net fishing of the tuna industry.

“We found the technique used now to save dolphins from the nets of tuna fishermen by developing a method of having them jump over the nets, during closing, without the release of the tuna.”

When asked what his research will focus on in the future, Weihs responded, “Trying to control birds by training them to serve as platforms for our payloads—have birds carry cameras, for example, and follow instructions on what to photo,” as well as “miniaturizing energy sources so we can fly the small vehicle.” 

Weihs, who has been with the Technion for 34 years  told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that the Technion is a “great place to study and work and the possibility for advanced research is good.” He also noted that the number of  Israeli Arabs and Druze studying at the Technion is increasing. However, he said he is concerned that “recently, cutbacks have forced us to reduce our faculty and new equipment bought.”

In addition to his work at the Technion, Prof. Weihs is Chairman of the Israel National Committee for Space Research. Throughout his career, he has consulted for the Israeli ministries of defense, transportation and science, and for public and private organizations in Europe and the United States, including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


The President of  the local chapter for  Canadian Technion  Morley Blankstein is pleased that  Technion has now begun to offer a full undergraduate program in Engineering in English. The Winnipeg chapter is presently having discussions with the Engineering Dept of the University of Manitoba leading to a student and academic exchange program with the Technion.

The undergraduate programs in Engineering  in English offered by the Technion  consist of 160 credits that can be completed in four years.

The programs are in: Water Resources and Environmental Engineering; Transportation Engineering; and Civil Engineering.

Students enrolled in this Engineering program will have unique opportunities to “be exposed to and participate in on-going international engineering projects”, to be matched with internship opportunities at national or multinational corporations in their field of interest” and to participate in on-campus research projects with graduate students and faculty members who have worldwide reputations in science and engineering.”

The Technion, situated on 300 scenic acres in Haifa, has a student population of 13,000 along with 1,600 university staff, all of whom live and work together in what is known as “Technion City.”

Financial aid is available to top candidates based on academic merit or financial need.

If you would like to find out more about the exciting new program check out the Technion website at



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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