As a nation constantly under the threat of attack, Israel has become known for having one of the strongest military cultures in the world. With such a strong military foundation, it comes as no surprise that Israel is also at the forefront of drone technology. In today’s commercial market, Israel is yet again leading the way for drone development. The Israel Innovation Authority is a government funded agency responsible for driving such progress. One of the branches of the agency is the newly established National Drone Network (NDN).
In October of 2021, the NDN announced that it was entering its 3rd stage of testing commercial drones in urban environments. As explained on the Israel Innovation Authority website, “Over the past few years, the world has witnessed a number of successful UAS applications in delivering goods to remote areas and allowing communities to get vital access to medical supplies. The next frontier for this technology is in an urban setting. Urban life presents many opportunities to integrate commercial uses of this technology, including the fast delivery of goods, emergency assistance, and even the futuristic replacement of cars. However, this environment also proves to be the hardest to implement this technology, presenting the need for drones to overcome the many obstacles, safety hazards, and dense aerial space. These factors have thus far significantly limited the current scope of commercial use.”
In cities like Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv, drone deliveries can greatly improve the logistics of urban living. Rather than further congesting streets, drones can take to the sky for last mile deliveries of food, professional needs, and medical supplies. The problem with deploying drones in urban environments is that it is hard to regulate them safely in such a dense area. Added to the fact that Israel has one of the strictest controlled airspace regulations in the world for national security. But one of the things the world has learned in the wake of COVID19 is that drones capable of deliveries go way beyond making things convenient.
Daniella Partem, from Israel Innovation Authority, said seeing how drones could be used to deliver medical supplies during the early stages of COVID19 greatly inspired the formation of the NDN. The NDN is a collaboration of 16 drone companies, many with roots in the military, that have planned an eight-stage program to fully incorporate commercial drones in Israel’s shared airspace, both rural and urban. The NDN held its first trials March 12-25, 2021 to test the digital infrastructure of its Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM). The successful trial proved that the newly designed UTM could manage a large fleet of drones at one time.
Since then, Partem said that the NDN has run over 9,000 test flights throughout the country, concentrating in urban settings. Now the NDN is ready to progress into its most intense testing period. In a public release the NDN stated, “Beginning on Sunday, Oct. 3, and for 10 days, flights will take place above residential areas in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ramat Hasharon, Herzliya, and Hadera, while in parallel a flight transport will take place in Brazil, controlled by the management system in Israel. The drones are expected to carry out around 300 flights per day above open areas, among other purposes for carrying out different kinds of tasks on flight paths assigned by the joint control system.”
The goal of this stage is to see just how safely and efficiently mass amounts of drones can deliver things like sushi, ice cream, and medical supplies in different urban settings. These settings will include private residences, public beaches and parks, and hospital campuses. Israel and the world have come a long way from using drones as tactical military tools. With Israel’s Innovation Authority supporting the NDN, the sky is the limit for possible drone applications.