Flying Taxi and Delivery Drone (B.Y. Productions & Content)
Every month, dozens of cargo drone flights are already carried out in Israel between hospitals, for rapid and traffic-proof transfer of blood units.
But the national drone project, Naama, is already working on the next stage: flying people. Last week, the project conducted demonstration flights of the eVTOL tool, a term that does not yet have an exact Hebrew translation, and describes an aircraft that combines a large drone with a light aircraft: on the one hand electric propulsion, autonomous flight and selfish take-off and landing, and on the other hand wings that allow it to fly faster and longer distances.
Cando Drones' Dronery took off for the first time with the EH-216 aircraft from the Chinese company EHANG, which can carry up to 220 kilograms and fly a distance of about 30 kilometers. AIR flew AIR ZERO, manufactured in Israel, which can carry up to 2 passengers and cargo weighing up to 250 kg, for a distance of up to 160 kilometers. The flights did not involve carrying people, but the vehicles carried a weight that simulated them.
The Chinese EHANG with a weight that simulates a human (Photo: b.y Productions and Content)
The project has been operating since 2019. Now, as part of the second phase, which began in January 2023, more than NIS 60 million is being invested for the next two years, during which test flights of a large number of vehicles will be held, which in the future will also be able to fly people and goods. The project is a rare event of partnership between relevant government bodies – the Ministry of Transport, the Innovation Authority, Ayalon Highways and the Civil Aviation Authority. The goal: to promote what is clear to be significant transportation technology soon, the regulation that will manage it, and the planning of infrastructure and airspace for them. Any movement of cargo and people that can be put on the air will ease congestion on the roads, and the government hopes to take advantage of the opportunity to integrate Israeli companies to manufacture the tools and operating systems, so that they will gain experience on the way to breaking into overseas markets.
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11 drone companies in the flight test, deliveries between hospitals, marketing chains and more (Photo: B.Y. Productions and Content)
Eleven drone companies participated in the trials this week. Downwind made the longest flight of the project, 11 kilometers between Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera and Rambam Hospital in Haifa, to transport cargoes of medicines between them. Drone companies, including Cando Drones, carried out urban delivery flights from Rami Levy and Yohananoff branches, and air taxis practiced a traffic bypass route from Kfar Truman to Tel Aviv, landing in Reading.
Oren Kalfon, CTO of Ayalon Highways, told Walla that "the work now is to regulate the flying of drones from a regulatory and operational standpoint. From pizza delivery people to air taxis for 29 passengers. There will be a traffic management system with artificial intelligence that will manage this airspace, it cannot be carried out like today with an air controller that talks to every aircraft, because the flight scopes will be much larger.
When can we order an air taxi on the app?
"Technology and operating theory are still being formulated, and it is likely that this will only happen in the next decade. But large-scale cargo drone flights and commercial operation are a matter of a few years, depending on the completion of legislation and infrastructure. Until now we have flown drones carrying 506.2 km for a distance of one kilometer, now we already have vehicles that will fly 5 km with 100 kg of cargo. It opens up a lot more commercial possibilities."
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