Israel is nearing the halfway mark of its national drone initiative – an ambitious pilot program seeking to test and prepare operational capacities for UAV use in daily life and business, and place participating companies at the forefront of rapidly approaching aerial services.
Israel’s eight-phase initiative began in January with a series of drone flights over urban areas as part of a plan to inform its evolving regulatory system, and create a navigational and operational network that can safely integrate regular activity by ever-rising numbers of drones. This week officials announced the start of the fourth phase of the program with a two-week flurry of UAV sorties over the greater Tel Aviv area. Previous chapters included a fleet of 20 drones flying more than 300 missions above the city of Hadera – per day.
According to an official statement, the purpose of the trials is to “integrate the use of drones in routine activities such as transportation of basic products, first aid; (and) deploying a drone attached to a vehicle for real-time monitoring of traffic movement with AI-based elements that can provide forecasts, and much more.”
They bring together private UAV sector companies and public authorities. The latter includes Israel’s Avalon Highways and its control center of ground traffic, which is now also overseeing creation of what officials are calling a centrally organized network of drone airways.
It’s no coincidence that Avalon Highways has been tasked with transferring its experience managing road traffic into the skies. According to company officials, one of the main objectives of the drone initiative is to remove delivery vehicles from city streets with aerial replacements. An estimated 20% of all road congestion in urban centers is created in transporting relatively small goods that could be delivered faster and at less expense by UAVs, they say.
So by launching the fourth phase of the drone initiative – which is slated to continue through next year – authorities are moving to continually increase both the number of craft and flights involved; diversify the kinds of missions they perform; test and perfect operational systems required to manage traffic; and gain the experience and insight that regulators need to draw up appropriate rules – and which sector business can use to hit the air flying as drone services truly take wing.
And all that, officials say, is placing Israel at the head of nations actively pursuing the UAV-driven future
“The Civil Aviation Authority is adjusting these large pilot (trials) in accordance with the future legislative outline,” Joel Feldschuh, director of Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority told the Jerusalem Post. “In so doing (it) is preparing and ‘ripening’ the Israeli market – both so that Israel will be ready for urban drone deliveries, and that drone companies will be able to move forward in the international market, without compromising on the requirements for safe operation for the public and the manned aviation field. The fourth phase of this pilot takes another step in examining future control architecture in the domain of urban deliveries via drones.”
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