UAS makes historic first landing at international airport

An Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)-produced Heron unmanned aerial system (UAS) made history on September 16, when it became the first UAS to land at a major international airport.

The medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAS departed Ein Shemer airfield in northern Israel and touched down at Ben Gurion International Airport near Lod, Israel, before returning to Ein Shemer. 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 by the control station at Ein Shemer.

IAI Heron [IAI]
An Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron made history on September 16, 2020, when it became the first unmanned aerial system (UAS) to land at a major international airport and integrate into civilian airspace alongside commercial flights. IAI

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 UAV arena.”

The company added that the historic landing “proves the maturity and safety of IAI’s Long Runner operating system.” This platform allows UAS’ 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 take-off and automatic landing capabilities to achieve this.

IAI’s Heron UAS is currently in operational military service with Azerbaijan, Brazil, Ecuador, Germany, India, Israel, Singapore and Turkey. It has been designed to conduct long strategic and tactical missions and can be flown in severe weather conditions. The UAS can be equipped with multiple sensor payloads and can transmit real-time information to commanders in the battlespace.