Autonomous eVTOL air taxi flown over Jerusalem by Israel

The 30-minute flight was operated by Dronery using Ehang's EH216-S aircraft.
Jijo Malayil
Dronery's eVTOL being tested
Dronery's eVTOL being tested

Innovation Israel  

In a first, an eVTOL (Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing) aircraft flew over Jerusalem, which takes Israel to the verge of opening up its airspace to air taxi providers.

The experimental flight was part of Israel's Israel National Drone Initiative (INDI), which attempts to create a network of drones to provide transportation services and reduce traffic congestion in its cities. The project focuses on laying a foundation for a flying car/sky taxi sector and operations based on eVTOL technologies.

The two-seater autonomous aircraft flown on September 13 was from Dronery, an Israeli drone delivery fleet operator Cando subsidiary. The company is one of several firms involved in the INDI project, which offers services to move people and cargo across the country.

According to Times of Israel, the test aircraft departed from Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, soared over the city's hills, and returned to the hospital's grounds less than 30 minutes later.

Long-distance capabilities

Drones used Chinese firm Ehang's EH216-S aircraft for its test flight over Jerusalem. This cutting-edge aircraft has a maximum cargo capacity of 485 pounds (220 kilograms) and can transport two people. It relied on the sophisticated command and control system of Ehang to fly autonomously without a pilot aboard. The electric-powered autonomous aircraft has a range of more than 20 miles (35 kilometers).

“We’re looking at how Israel’s National Drone Initiative is expanding its scope to move beyond transporting packages to transporting human beings. We are looking to improve the economic viability of this model and advance connectivity in urban areas and further afield around the world," said Daniella Partem, senior director at the Israel Innovation Authority, in a statement.

The compact dimensions of the aircraft, measuring 1.85m in height and 5.63m in width, make it practical for city usage. The eight arms of the eVTOL are designed to be foldable and only take up limited parking space. EH216 can attain a top speed of 80 mph (130 kph) at its peak operating capacity.

According to Dronery, it's partnering with leading industry partners and regulatory authorities to "ensure the safe and efficient integration of autonomous air taxis into Israel's airspace," said the firm's website.

Comprehensive project

The INDI project has been in operation since 2019. Over the following two years, it will receive over 60 million shekels in investment to get Israel's skies ready for drone deliveries. The first phase of the national drone plan, from 2019 to 2022, mainly focused on small freight missions.

In June, week-long simultaneous flying tests and demonstrations were held at various locations nationwide in which 11 drone operating and delivery firms participated. Israel has completed more than 20,000 test flights using multiple sizes of drones, but the experiment on Wednesday was the first to be undertaken in front of the media.

“The possibility of flying the aerial taxi in the early stages within an urban area as complex as the Hadassah Medical Center is a practical realization of the Transportation Ministry’s belief," Yoeli Or, CEO of Cando, told Times of Israel.

Ayalon Highways Ltd., the Israel Innovation Authority, the Ministry of Transportation, and the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI) are partners in the program. The Initiative's member businesses will continue to operate flights for a week every month for the following two years to test all aspects of launching such services shortly.

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