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From Sci-fi to Reality: Massive Drone Delivery Fleet Takes Off in Israel

Israel—the "start-up Nation"—late last week successfully launched a 10-day demonstration of a network of thousands of delivery drones over the skies of Tel Aviv and several major surrounding cities.

The term Start-up Nation was coined by Dan Senor and Saul Singer in their book by the same name in 2009. It seeks to show how Israel, a tiny nation just 61 years old (at the time), became a world leader in technology, medicine, and agriculture. Israel has more start-ups and investment per capita than any nation in the world. They claim Israel's IDF training, which teaches soldiers to never give up in battle, has translated to the business world.

Officials at Airwayz Drones are counting on the latest radar, artificial intelligence, and drone technology to keep the skies above and people below safe as drones in the near future deliver everything from fast food to medical supplies across Israel.

"Our systems import a lot of data, including from our Raphael-produced radar (a military manufacturing company). Using all of this information together, we can detect what is a 'good' drone and what shouldn't be in the air space," Eyal Zor, CEO of Airwayz, explained.

Detecting a "good" delivery drone from a "bad" drone carrying explosives from Hamas or Hezbollah is a primary security concern.

Airwayz Drones is one of several private Israeli and foreign companies that have partnered with the Transportation Ministry to build a massive drone delivery network across the country. Ayalon Highways—an innovative governmental mass transit company—has an impressive command center for the endeavor in Tel Aviv. It's kind of like an air traffic control tower at the airport, except they monitor and track all the drones in the fleet. A state-of-the-art artificial intelligence system manages the drone flight control systems, and advanced cyber security measures make sure the drones aren't hacked or hijacked, Zor said.

The AI is so advanced the drones even have instructions to adapt and fly around sensitive situations (such as military bases or an evolving situation with police, etc.).

The drone program is in its second year of testing. Right now, payloads are relatively small—3.5 pounds max—and the delivery radius is only about 3 miles. But the Israel Innovation Authority—one of the project's collaborators—hopes to see heavier payloads and longer distances—up to 60 miles—next year.

In the future, Airwayz and other companies envision not only fast-food deliveries—but delivering medical supplies and other assistance to the Israeli Police, Fire, and Rescue, and IDF Homefront Command through a fleet of thousands of drones in the skies over Israel.

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