Israel tests drone ‘air taxis’ for the first time


Israel’s National Air Drone Initiative (INDI) has launched a number of drone flight tests across Israel this week, in preparation for the advancement of flight vehicles, according to a press release published on Monday

INDI partnered with the Transportation Ministry, the Israel Innovation Authority, Ayalon Highways, and the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI). The project has been operating since 2019 and over the last three years, more than 19,000 flight exercises have been conducted.

NIS 60 million has been invested to fund test flights for the next two years. The flights will carry both people and goods.

The test flights conducted throughout Israel

One of the companies operating drones carried out the first test flight of an eVTOL autonomous electric aircraft with long-range capabilities. The test was done in a managed urban airspace and carried heavy cargo loads. It is hoped that with further developments, the craft may be able to transport people for long distances.

In another first, Dronery flew from the Pal-Yam landing pad in Caesarea with EHANG’s innovative EH216-S aircraft. This craft can carry two passengers with a total of up to 220 kilograms, and fly a distance of 30 kilometers.

This was considered a particular accomplishment, despite the comparatively shorter flight distance, as the craft can be flown completely autonomously with no pilot onboard. This was made possible through the use of EHANG’s intelligent command-and-control system.  

In another test, the Israeli-manufactured AIR ZERO was flown. This craft also carries up to 2 people with a total payload of up to 220 kilograms, for a distance of up to 160 kilometers.  

The commercialization of drones was also explored during the week of tests, as Cando Drones conducted delivery flights between Rami Levy Supermarket branches in night flights in Hadera.

Goals of the drone flights

The goal of the joint initiative was to “support and promote an ecosystem through technology, regulation, and infrastructure for the use of advanced flight vehicles,” the organizations said in a press release. 

The initiative, which heavily focused on preparing the airspace for future drone flights, aims to work toward the alleviation of traffic congestion. With the new medium to  deliver services, items could be delivered more efficiently and “create a global competitive advantage for Israeli high-tech companies.” 

“Under my leadership, the Ministry of Transportation is working to strengthen Israel’s position as a global development center for vehicle and transportation technologies, including aerial transportation. To this end, we promote joint experiments to test innovative technologies, such as Israel’s National Drone Initiative. This is the first initiative of its kind in the world for an extensive and multidisciplinary examination of new technologies, including the transportation of cargo and later, people,” Transportation Minister Miri Regev said in the release. 

“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. 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.” 

Adding to this, CEO of the Innovation Authority Dror Bin said: “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. 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.” 

Finally, Orly Stern,  the CEO of Ayalon Highways stated that “The National Drone Initiative is a project aimed at providing a variety of technological solutions to alleviate road congestion.

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. This will create a variety of air transportation options for regular and emergency cargo transfers.” 

The drone exercises will continue over the next two years, with a week of testing every month.

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