Israel has begun test flights of autonomous electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. This testing will see eVTOLS carrying passengers and heavy cargo as the country prepares to adapt its national airspace for air taxi and drone delivery services. Taking place in early June, the first air taxi test flights are part of an NIS60 million ($16.6 million) government pilot project known as the Israel National Drone Initiative (INDI). Established in 2019, INDI is tasked with creating a national drone network and preparing national airspace for drone deliveries across the country. INDI seeks to solve the issue of traffic congestion on Israel’s busiest roads through the use of drone and commercial air taxi services. INDI is a partnership between the Transportation Ministry, the Israel Innovation Authority, Ayalon Highways Ltd, and the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel.
“This is the first initiative of its kind in the world for an extensive and multidisciplinary examination of new technologies, including the transportation of cargo and later, people,” said Transportation Minister Miri Regev. “The collaborative project examines all the aspects – including regulation and legislative changes – involved in the commercial operation of drones, as an additional tool to deal with congestion.”
The aircraft flown for the test flights was developed by the Pardes Hanna-based startup called AIR. The company demonstrated its AIR ONE all-electric two-seater eVTOL, which can carry a total payload of up to 220 kilograms (485 lb) for a distance of up to 160 kilometers (99.4 mi). It has collapsible wings for more efficient parking and can take off from or land on any flat surface.