First landing of UAS at major international airport

IAI Heron Unmanned Aerial System (Israel Aerospace Industries)

IAI Heron Unmanned Aerial System (Israel Aerospace Industries) - Credit: Archant

An IAI-produced Heron unmanned aerial system (UAS) made history as the first UAS to land at an international airport...

An Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)-produced Heron unmanned aerial system (UAS) made history on 16 September, when it became the first UAS to land at a major international airport and integrate into civilian airspace alongside commercial flights. The medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAS departed Ein Shemer airfield in northern Israel and touched down at Ben Gurion International Airport, which in 2019 handled twenty-four million passengers and is Israel’s busiest aerodrome.

The aircraft operated alongside commercial flights in civilian airspace around the airport when the aircraft arrived and departed. The entire flight – including take-off and landing – was operated from the control station at the departure airfield of Ein Shemer.

Moshe Levy, executive vice president and general manager of IAI’s Military Aircraft Group, 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. This is a great achievement for IAI in the UAS arena.” 

The company added that the historic landing ‘proves the maturity and safety of the vehicle’s operating system’, which allows the aircraft to take-off and land automatically on long-haul routes with ranges upwards of 1,500km. It employs satellite communications technology and a combination of accurate takeoff and automatic landing capabilities to achieve this.

The Heron is currently in operational military service with several countries, and has been designed to conduct long strategic missions even in severe weather.

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