TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – Dozens of drones floated over Tel Aviv’s skies on Monday, ferrying cartons of ice cream and sushi across the city in an experiment officials hope will provide a glimpse into the not-too-distant future.

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Israel’s National Drone Initiative, a government program, conducted the exercise to prepare for a world in which large quantities of commercial deliveries would be carried out by drones to pressurize highly congested urban streets. The two-year program aims to implement the capabilities of Israeli drone companies to establish a nationwide network where customers can order goods and have them delivered to pick up spots.

The project, now in the third of eight phases, is still in its infancy and is facing many questions regarding security and logistics.

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“Earlier this year we had 700 test flights and now we are close to 9,000 flights,” said Daniela Partem of the Israel Innovation Authority, a partner in the drone initiative.

Israel is a global leader in drone technology, with much of its expertise rooted in a highly technical military. Many of the 16 companies participating in the drone initiative have ties to the military.

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According to Partem, the initiative was inspired by the halting effect of COVID-19 on the transportation of medical supplies in early 2020.

In the initial phase, the transport of drugs and blood plasma by drones was tested. The initiative has since conducted extensive trials in three different urban districts in Israel and is expected to lead to legislation that would allow drones to be widely used through an app that customers and customers can use .

Israel’s population of 9.3 million people is largely packed into urban centres, with major cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with high levels of road congestion. Access to Israel airspace is highly regulated by security authorities, and flying a drone requires a permit from the Israeli Civil Aviation Authority.

This initiative faces several hurdles. Authorities must ensure that drones can handle flights through turbulent weather conditions and that skies can be cleared quickly in case of war or emergency. There are also privacy issues.

“Once you have a drone that actually takes pictures or videos you create a whole new dimension of privacy invasion,” said Tehila Schwartz Altschuller, digital technology expert and fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, a think tank in Jerusalem. said.

The Drone Initiative has already tried to address such concerns by using cameras that could help the machine land, but do not have the resolution to take detailed pictures.

The Drone Initiative has worked in collaboration with the Aviation Authority since its first flight test in January. Five more trials are planned in the next 14 months.

“One day, we’ll have drone-powered taxis in the sky,” said Yoli Orr, co-founder of Cando Drones, one of the companies participating in Monday’s experiment.