Friday, September 15, 2023

Air taxis fly over Jerusalem for 1st time as Israel builds airspace network of drones

Israel on Wednesday expanded test flights of air taxis to urban areas in Jerusalem as it prepares the airspace for a drone delivery network of passengers and heavy cargo to ease traffic congestion on the country’s roads.

During the demonstration, which is part of a NIS 60 million ($15.7 million) two-year government-led pilot project, also known as the Israel National Drone Initiative (INDI), experimental flights of an autonomous flying vehicle, a Chinese-made electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft with long-distance capabilities, took off from Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, flew over the hills of the city and landed back at the medical center’s premises after less than half an hour.

The overall aim of the project is to fly passengers and heavy cargo from one place to another and relieve traffic congestion on Israel’s busy roads by using drones, as well as provide commercial and public services, in particular in life-saving missions in emergency scenarios such as earthquakes with mass casualties, and for urgent medical supplies and tests.

“What we’re looking at here is how Israel’s National Drone Initiative is expanding its scope to move beyond transporting packages to transporting human beings,” said Daniella Partem, senior director at the Israel Innovation Authority. “We are looking to improve the economic viability of this model and advance connectivity in urban areas and further afield around the world.”

The cost of such flights is still difficult to estimate but it can be expected to remain relatively expensive for drones to deliver a “$5 plate of sushi,” according to Libby Bahat from the Israel Civil Aviation Authority. READ MORE