Ice cream and sushi cartons flew across Tel Aviv on Monday as part of the latest test of Israel’s drone program, which officials hope provided a glimpse into the near future.
Israel’s National UAV Initiative is a two-year government program that aims to establish a national network built on the capabilities of Israeli skimmer companies that provide goods to collect points for UAV customers.
The plan carried out the exercise on Monday ahead of large-scale commercial shipments made by UAVs to ease pressure on congested urban roads.
Some of the participants in the experiment are optimistic about the future of the UAVs, including Yoeli Orr, co-founder of Cando Drones, one of the companies that participated in Monday’s experiment.
“One day, we’ll have drones driven by a drone in the sky,” Orr said.
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The project, which is now in its third phase out of eight, is still in its infancy and faces many questions on security and logistics issues.
“We had 700 test flights at the beginning of the current year and now we are close to 9,000 flights,” said Daniela Pratham, of the Innovation Authority, a partner in the skimmer initiative.
Israel is a world leader in skimmer technology, with much of its expertise in the most technological army. Many of the 16 companies participating in the UAV initiative have ties to the military.
According to the individual, the initiative was inspired by the arresting effect that COVID-19 had on the transport of medical equipment in early 2020.
At an early stage, the transport of drugs and blood plasma by skimmers was examined. The initiative has since carried out broader tests in three different urban districts in Israel and hopes to promote legislation that will allow extensive use of skimmers through an app that customers can use.
The population of Israel, numbering 9.3 million, is mostly crowded in urban centers, with large cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem suffering from high levels of congestion on the roads. Access to Israeli airspace is highly regulated by security officials, and flying a glider requires approval from the Civil Aviation Authority.
The initiative faces many obstacles. Officials will need to ensure that UAVs can handle flights in stormy weather conditions and that the sky can be cleared quickly in the event of war or emergency. There are also privacy issues.
“Once you have a drone that really takes pictures or videos, you create a whole new dimension of invasion of privacy,” said Tehila Schwartz Altshuler, a digital technology expert and fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, a thinking team in Jerusalem.
The skimmer initiative has already tried to address such concerns using cameras that can help the machine land, but they do not have the resolution to take detailed pictures.
The drone initiative has been working in partnership with the Aviation Authority since its first flight tests in January. Five more inspections are planned over the next 14 months.