Israel conducts cargo, passenger drone tests

Passenger and cargo UAVs have taken off in Israel for the first ever time, as part of initiatives to test the feasibility of integrating drone technology as part of public transportation in the country.

Running under the aegis of the Israel National Drone Initiative (INDI), a government programme in collaboration with the local civil aviation authority to introduce civilian drones to ease transport challenges, eleven drone services companies conducted several tests last week throughout the country.

“The aircraft being tested now will be able to bypass traffic jams and ease congestion by removing cars and trucks from the roads, in conjunction with air traffic management systems,” said Orly Stern, CEO of infrastructure management corporation, Ayalon Highways.

Cando Drones through its subsidiary Dronery, took EHang’s E216 passenger drone for a spin in public for the first time; the two-passenger carrying drone left the ground at the Pal-Yam landing pad in Caesarea.

No information was immediately available on whether it had people on board, but the E216 can carry a load up 220 kilogrammes in weight and fly fully autonomously for a distance of 30 kilometres.

Cando Drones also conducted delivery flights between Rami Levy Supermarket branches, night flights in the coastal strip of Hadera in collaboration with the municipality, and traffic monitoring activities at the Nesher-Bar-Yehuda junction.

Besides Cando, Down Wind took its drone through the longest flight in the initiative so far, covering approximately 29km, to open a flight path between Hillel Yaffe Medical Centre and Rambam Medical Centre.

Other autonomous urban flights were also taken to assess the movement of goods from various branches in Yohananof.

Also taking part was Sentrycs, which conducted tests to ensure a safe flight environment for authorised drones in collaboration with Flytech and Cando.

ATI, in collaboration with TA Helicopters, examined eVTOL landing options in city centres and conducted a flight path from Kfar Truman to the centre of Tel Aviv, with a landing in Reading.

Among the drones tested was the Air Zero, and Israeli-manufactured which can accommodate up to two passengers and a total payload of up to 220 kilograms, for a distance of up to 160km.

“The collaborative project examines all the aspects—including regulation and legislative changes—involved in the commercial operation of drones, as an additional tool to deal with congestion,” said Israeli Transportation Minister Miri Regev.

Launched in 2019, INDI is into the second phase of civilian drone tests. The first phase lasted until 2022, focused on small cargo flights, and had an initial investment worth $16 million.

In a statement, the government said the current phase aims to increase payload capacity and range, as well the development of a system of aerial routes in the skies.

“This is a new, intriguing and challenging world, with unlimited possibilities for us. We will do everything to ensure that Israel continues to lead and be at the forefront of global research and development on land, air and sea,” Regev added.

Over the past three years, around 19,000 sorties have been conducted in rural and urban areas, with the objective of building an ecosystem whereby drones will not only help with local traffic congestion, but also provide commercial and public services more efficiently and give Israeli companies a global competitive advantage.

Over the next two years, the companies participating in the initiative will conduct test flights across the country for one week each month.

These flights will take place in controlled airspace, will cover distances of up to 150km and will involve heavier payloads.

Ayalon Highways will continue to serve as the pilot site for conducting the demonstrations and will provide the companies with space in its metropolitan command and control centre.

“Israel is one of the global leaders in this field and today’s experiment is an important milestone in the National Drone Initiative which gained international acclaim,” said Dror Bin, CEO of the Innovation Authority.

“The significance of these demonstrations lies in creating a regulatory sandbox that allows all relevant stakeholders to have practical experience before establishing a regulatory infrastructure that enables a wider economically viable model. The ability of Israeli startup companies in the drone industry to experiment within this sandbox provides them with a competitive advantage in the global market.”


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