IAI Integrates UAV Into Commercial Traffic At Tel Aviv Airport

IAI's Heron UAV landing at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International.
Credit: IAI

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has accomplished what it described as the world’s first successful landing of a UAV at a major airport while integrating the vehicle into commercial traffic.

IAI operated one of its Heron UAVs into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International (TLV) alongside commercial flights while occupying civilian airspace, the company said Sept. 16. The Heron had earlier taken off from Ein Shemer Airfield (HDA), around 40 km (25 mi.) north of the city, before landing at TLV. The UAV was then flown back to HDA. The entire procedure was handled remotely from a control station at Ein Shemer.

IAI said that the event proved the maturity and safety of its Long Runner operating system, which allows UAVs to take off and land automatically on long-haul routes—which it classes as ranges of up to 1500 km and beyond—using satellite communication technology and automatic landing capability.

The Heron is a military UAV, versions of which have been in service with several air forces for many years. Normally used as a sensor platform, it can also carry up to 290 kg (639 lbs.) of cargo and can be used for a range of civilian purposes.

“IAI’s Heron UAV made a significant breakthrough today, landing for the first time at an international airport,” IAI military aircraft group EVP and general manager Moshe Levy said. “The future of the world of aviation will need to allow unmanned aerial vehicles to land at civilian airports, and today this happened for the first time thanks to the hard and joint work of the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel and the Israel Airports Authority.”

Alan Dron

Based in London, Alan is Europe & Middle East correspondent at Air Transport World.