Tel Aviv, Israel (AP) – Dozens of UAVs watched the skies of Tel Aviv on Monday, transporting ice cream cartons and sushi around the city in an experiment that officials hope provided a glimpse into the not-too-distant future.
Israel’s National UAV Initiative, a government program, carried out the exercise to prepare for a world in which large quantities of commercial shipments will be made by UAVs to relieve pressure from highly congested urban roads. The two-year program aims to implement the capabilities of Israeli skimmer companies to establish a nationwide network where customers can order goods and have them pick up places.
The project, which is currently 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 this 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 rooted 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, which numbers 9.3 million people, 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 very regulated by security officials, and flying a glider requires approval from the Civil Aviation Authority.
The initiative faces many obstacles. Officials will have to ensure that drones 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.
“One day, we will have drones powered by a drone in the sky,” said Yoeli Orr, co-founder of Cando Drones, one of the companies that participated in Monday’s experiment.