The Israeli company that helped Cyprus through its financial crisis in 2013 was not a banking advisory group or a financial consultancy; it was an aerial photography outfit.
Ofek Aerial Photos provided the Cypriot government with a bird’s-eye view of taxable properties that enabled it to keep its commitments to the European Union and close its budget gap.
“In Cyprus, we undertook a project to provide an aerial map of the country in order to enable them to collect property taxes due, which nobody had been paying,” Ofek CEO Udi Friedlander told the Times of Israel.
“We developed a highly accurate database of homes, businesses, office buildings, barns, cabins, and anything else that could be assessed for property tax.”
Friedlander explained that his company’s technology achieves a resolution better than even the best civilian-accessible satellites, and is used for a variety of projects around the world. One of the more noteworthy ones, besides Cyprus, was a flood prevention program in Zambia.
“We used the Lidar system to provide an in-depth topography of the area, down to several inches in resolution,” Friedlander said. “By doing so the government was able to see how the floodwaters flowed, and to figure out the cheapest and easiest ways to prevent flooding, such as by leveling parts of the terrain.”
“Many people think that drones are more versatile, but the truth is they could never produce the kinds of results we are getting,” Friedlander said.
Back in Israel, Ofek has been hired to “go into” Arab areas where tax assessors are unwelcome.
More routinely, “for the past eight years we have taken aerial photos of Tel Aviv every two weeks,” he added. “The photos are uploaded to the city’s database, which can then determine if someone added to their structures. We don’t decide what is legal or not – we just supply the information.”
Friedlander declined comment on whether or not his firm does work for the IDF or Shin Bet.
“They have, I am sure, sufficient resources of their own. We go where we are needed, and do what is needed,” he said.