Note: This press release first appeared on the Israeli government website.
Want to fly IN a drone? Israel’s National Drone Initiative enters second phase
- Sixty million NIS will be invested in 10 companies as part of a pilot project by the Israel Innovation Authority, Ayalon Highways, the Ministry of Transportation, and Civil Aviation Authority.
- The pilot project will also examine the use of large cargo and passenger-carrying heavy drones flying in controlled airspace.
- As part of the pilot, the drones’ capabilities will be tested over two years at various sites throughout the country.
Following the previous pilot program (2020-2022), which successfully met all pre-defined metrics, starting January (2023) a number of companies will participate in one week of flights across the country every month for the next two years (24 trials in total). The demonstrations will take place nationwide under managed airspace. The drones will carry heavier loads, including some that in the future will be capable of human transportation. This pilot will be carried out in cooperation with the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI), the Israeli Air Force, Israel Airports Authority (IAA), and other relevant regulatory entities.
Israel’s national drone initiative is introducing concepts that have never before been fielded, breaking new ground internationally.
The companies selected to participate in this second pilot phase are (in no particular order):
- Airwayz Drones Ltd. – Airwayz has an AI-based system for smart management of airspace and drone fleets. The company will operate two systems: one for the dynamic management of the drones’ airspace, and a fleet management system for the autonomous operation of drone fleets for various tasks within the confines of a smart city.
- T. Aerial Solutions Ltd. – F.T. Aerial Solutions Ltd. (an Aerodrome Group Ltd. company) has been working since it was founded to provide remotely operated aircraft services. The company offers operations, training, implementation, and integration services to supply the best possible solution for each client. It is active in civil engineering, construction, agriculture, renewable energy, and the safety and security industries.
- Elsight – Elsight provides a reliable and secure communications solution for the drone industry, which allows various parties to carry out BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) activities in all commercial verticals.
- AGL – AGL is engaged in the characterization of systems and control rooms, writing operations and activation procedures for command-and-control rooms, and certification training and ongoing professional training for aviation personnel.
- ATI (Air Taxi Israel) – A dedicated AAM (advanced air mobility) company in Israel that works in partnership with relevant aviation companies involved in the project.
- Brook – Brook Aviation operates helicopter services. The company will operate an eVTOL (electronic vertical take-off and landing) fleet alongside helicopters and aircraft based on similar flight characteristics.
- Down Wind – Down Wind is an aircraft manufacturer and air operator specializing in remotely manned aircraft.
- High-Lander – High-Lander provides solutions that enable advanced autonomous aerial command and control for managing drone fleets. The company offers an end-to-end technological solution for autonomous deliveries by drones – from real-time loading and autonomous airspace management to their arrival at the destination. The solution includes an end-user application that displays the drone’s location in real time, the progress of the air shipment, and a video feed.
- Cando Drones – Cando Drones is a drone airline. The company provides a comprehensive solution based on a system that includes the following components: drone capabilities, unique command, and control software for their automatic and autonomous operation, as well as professional guidance for integrating and maximizing capabilities in the required activity.
- Robotican – Develops ground and air-based mobile autonomous robotic systems and is developing fast-response drone-based solutions.
This pilot project aims to expand experiments with long-range aircraft carrying heavy loads. The goal is that in the future, it will be possible to fly passengers from place to place and improve the congestion situation in Israel by using drones.
The pilot is a direct continuation of the first National Drone Initiative (2020-2022). Partners include the Israel Innovation Authority, Ayalon Highways, the Ministry of Transportation, and CAAI – a unique national and international collaboration between government entities, civil authorities, and industry partners.
The regulatory sandbox supports the development and implementation of the technologies that will allow companies to improve their products, develop a sustainable economic model and optimize the services provided to all citizens.
During the first two years of demonstrations, over 15,000 drone flights were carried out in various locations across Israel: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Hadera, Ramat Hasharon, Herzliya, Modi’in, Yeruham, and Beersheba, as well as in 18 medical institutions throughout the country.
As part of the first phase, the regulator and companies experimented with flights to meet commercial and public needs, including the transfer of shipments, monitoring, security, photography, flying medical equipment, and more. In the next phase, the regulatory and technological infrastructures will be further expanded.
Numerous collaborations with public entities were carried out, including the IDF’s Home Front Command in Operation “Guardian of the Walls”, Israel Police, the Tel Aviv Municipality covering mass-participant events, and more. The Israeli National Drone Initiative is also part of a collaboration with the World Economic Forum, and received extensive international exposure to global regulators, industry, and media. The initiative established Israel as a leader in developing this rapidly expanding ecosystem.
The topics that will be examined in the current pilot include:
- For the first time in Israel, there will be a demonstration of EHang air taxi drones, developed to carry passengers by Israeli air operators. These flights will be carried out without passengers in the preliminary stages until supporting regulatory approval is obtained.
- The operation of heterogeneous drone networks nationwide in cooperation with national air traffic control authorities.
- Drone flights of different models, types, and operators in controlled airspace.
- The development of customer identification applications (Proof of Delivery) to advance the implementation of commercial services.
- Initial attempts at planning and implementing vertiports for heavy electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL).
- Demonstrating technologies and innovative operating concepts to create and promote aerial logistics networks.
This very large demonstration will expand global knowledge by executing simultaneous flights, including dozens of unmanned drones carrying cargo and advanced drones with cutting-edge technologies designed to carry passengers. The demonstration will evaluate the technological maturity of such solutions in a controlled, responsible, safety-first mindset. The drones will begin flying this year. At first, limited flight tests will be carried out in areas without human presence. Later flights will be carried out over sparsely populated areas with the goal of working up to demonstrating services within urban areas.
Ayalon Highways will continue to serve as the “beta site” for the tests and will facilitate the oversight of the operations from its Metropolitan Command and Control Center.
Dror Bin, CEO of Israel Innovation Authority: “Israel continues to be a world leader in drone technology. With the end of the first phase of flying drones by different operators in the same managed airspace, Israeli companies are recording impressive commercial achievements in Israel and worldwide. Israel serves as a model of a country that develops regulations and technologies to enable the management and control of the operation of multiple drones for various needs and is rapidly approaching a continuous operating model that will enable low-altitude flights throughout the country.”
Orly Stern, CEO of Ayalon Highways: “Ayalon Highways, in partnership with the Ministry of Transportation, the Civil Aviation Authority, and the Israel Innovation Authority, will continue to promote the National Drone Initiative as part of the future transportation solutions that the company is leading. In the past two years, the initiative has shown impressive and groundbreaking technological capabilities in smart airspace management at low altitudes in built-up environments. These capabilities will enable effective and practical solutions for reducing road congestion.”
Nehemiah (Hemi) Shalem, Acting Director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel in the Ministry of Transportation: “The Civil Aviation Authority (CAAI) is extending the National Drone Initiative for an additional two years while continuing the excellent collaboration with the project partners. The CAAI is committed to providing full support to all the entities involved in the project: governmental, companies, and local authorities. Additionally, the CAAI will promote the critical legislative actions required for developing a thriving aviation industry that serves as a world leader while never compromising on flight safety. “