Developed over 15 years for rescue or military use,
the $14m (£11m) Cormorant (formerly AirMule) can
carry 500kg (1,100lb) at 185km/h (115mph).
Urban Aeronautics says internal rotors make it
safer than a helicopter.
And as well as taking off and landing vertically, it
can fly between buildings and below power lines.
“It paves the way forward for the evolution of
Cormorant from prototype to near-term production
and ultimately commercialisation of this
groundbreaking technology – for broad applications
and markets,” said Urban Aeronautics chief
executive Rafi Yoeli.
Commercial drones are becoming big business,
with Amazon announcing Prime Air, a delivery-by-
drone service, in the summer.
In June, another passenger drone – 184 and made
by Chinese company Ehang – was given approval
for test flights in Nevada.
Dr Mirko Kovac, director of the Aerial Robotics Lab
at Imperial College London, said: “The proposed
vehicle shows that there is a real potential for
personal drones, not just for delivery and
environmental sensing but also for transport.
“There still is a lot of technological work that needs
to be developed to make such vehicles safe and
easy to use, but if the project comes to the market
it can disrupt the way humans move in cities and
make fast travel through the air accessible to the
Drone expert Ravi Vaidyanathan, from Imperial’s
department of mechanical engineering, added that
the recent flight of the Israeli drone could be a
“landmark” moment in low altitude navigation and
initially targeting it for humanitarian rescue and
military use is the right move.
“Finding a niche application and establishing a
safety record is a good idea,” he told the BBC.
But while drones for civilian use were likely to
follow, not least because such vehicles could help
solve issues such as lack of infrastructure and
congestion, the timescale remained uncertain.
“There are are lot of regulatory hurdles such as
where do you take off? Where do you land? What
altitude do you fly at?” he said.