In Israel and Gaza, Drones Change the Calculus of War

In this edition of Future of FLYING, we touch on drones in the Middle East, Wing’s Dallas drone delivery launch, and more.

Israel Hamas drones

Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, chief of general staff of the Israel Defense Forces, addresses Israeli media on October 12. [Courtesy: Israel Defense Forces/X]

Hello, and welcome to the Future of FLYING newsletter, our weekly look at the biggest stories in emerging aviation technology. From low-altitude drones to high-flying rockets at the edge of the atmosphere, we’ll take you on a tour of the modern flying world to help you make sense of it all.

Now for this week’s top story:

Hamas Used Drone Swarms to Overwhelm Israeli Defenses

(Courtesy: Israeli Defense Forces/Twitter)

What happened? After more than two years of fighting in Russia and Ukraine, the world has seen what drones are capable of on the battlefield. Naturally, it raises alarm bells when the technology ends up in the wrong hands, as was the case on Saturday when Hamas launched a terror attack on Israeli civilians, killing hundreds. Casualties have since risen to the thousands.

What Hamas is working with: In short, the terrorist group deployed a swarm of drones in conjunction with land and sea attacks to catch Israel’s defenses off guard. Drone technology from China’s DJI—and reportedly some developed with the help of Iran—was used to hit strategic targets (such as the country’s central base for counter-drone operations) and civilians.

Some of the technology—including powered hang gliders that were used to transport militants over Israel’s billion-dollar border wall—raised eyebrows for current and former intelligence officials, who claim the attacks would not have been possible without Iran’s support. Hezbollah and the Houthis, two other terrorist groups and Iran proxies, could also enter the conflict.

How Israel could respond: In addition to its border wall, Israel deploys counter-drone systems such as the Iron Dome, which is designed to shoot down projectiles over large, populated areas. But these systems were overwhelmed by thousands of Hamas drones, rendering them ineffective. The aerial distraction also enabled attacks on the ground and by sea.

However, with Hamas’ capabilities now known, some experts believe Israel could defend future assaults more effectively. Support from the U.S. may also move the needle. American officials have no plans to put boots on the ground, but the government will send ships, counter-drone technology, and munitions to assist the Israeli Defense Forces.

Quick quote: “Directly comparing the drones of each side is a bit like comparing rifles on each side. The U.S. M-16 was far superior to the AK-47, yet that did not yield a U.S. victory in the Vietnam War, for example […] What matters here is the accessibility of the technology (even in more primitive forms), and how well it is used,” professor Audrey Kurth Cronin, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Security and Technology, told FLYING.

My take: Above all, Hamas’ surprise attack on Israeli civilians validates what we’ve seen in Russia and Ukraine: In the wrong hands, drones can be a force for evil—and an effective one at that.

There are no easy answers here. The drones deployed by Hamas were small, cheap, plentiful, and likely designed or delivered by Iran. The fact that rudimentary technology could be used to such effect (and obtained rather easily from a widely sanctioned country) sets a dangerous precedent. Already, Israel has retaliated against thousands of civilian deaths by deploying its own swarms of drones, which have now killed more than 1,000 Palestinian civilians.

Though Hamas incited the growing conflict, regular people in both Israel and Palestine—through no fault of their own—are now threatened by sudden, deadly drone strikes. And with global superpowers now stockpiling the tiny aircraft, casualties of war may be more severe than ever.

In Other News…

Wing Shows Us How It’s Delivered

(Courtesy: Jack Daleo/FLYING)

What happened? If you follow me on X, formerly Twitter (@jack_daleo), you’ve seen me post about Wing and Walmart’s Dallas drone delivery service, which I got the chance to see in action last week at UP.Summit. But for the uninitiated, I posted a deep dive of the operation on FLYING Digital this week—here are the highlights.

How It’s Delivered: One thing that stood out to me—and that a spokesperson made sure to emphasize—was Wing’s ability to fit into Walmart’s workflows. The whole operation is run from a fenced area in the parking lot of a Supercenter, about the size of a tennis court. All Walmart associates need to do is pack orders and walk them over to the Wing staffers.

As for the drone delivery personnel, they didn’t have much to do either. The Wing system takes orders, assigns drones, plots flight plans, performs health checks, and responds to contingencies almost entirely on its own. Soon, the Wing Delivery Network and AutoLoader, which CEO Adam Woodworth detailed at UP.Summit, will add more autonomy to the service.

Archer Nabs Financing for ‘World’s Largest’ eVTOL Production Plant

(Courtesy: Archer Aviation)

What happened? Before ferrying passengers to and from airports in Chicago and the New York City metro area in partnership with United, Archer Aviation will first need to produce its eVTOL in numbers. Earlier this year, the firm broke ground on a mass manufacturing facility in Covington, Georgia. Now, it’s secured the funding—$65 million from Synovus Bank—to complete it.

Cheap volume: Initially, Archer’s facility is expected to span 350,000 square feet and produce up to 650 aircraft per year. That’s more than any of its competitors are planning to put out. Eventually, the company said the site could grow to 900,000 square feet, churning out over 2,000 Midnight eVTOLs annually.

Interestingly, Archer claims it will be able to do this while keeping production costs lower than those of its competitors. That’s because the firm leverages outside aerospace companies to supply the majority of Midnight’s components. Archer will need an FAA production certificate, which will follow Midnight type certification, to begin using the facility to its full potential.

And a Few More Headlines:

  • UP.Summit 2023 in Dallas wrapped up last week, but check out our roundup of the biggest headlines.
  • NASA postponed an International Space Station spacewalk after discovering a leak on the orbital complex.
  • Personal eVTOL manufacturer Applied eVTOL Concepts will certify its Epiphany Transporter (what a name!) as a light sport aircraft.
  • Airspace security provider Dedrone introduced a solution to enable BVLOS drone first responder operations.
  • The NFL and other sports leagues are dealing with a new threat: unlicensed drones flying over stadiums.

Spotlight on…


[Courtesy: Pivotal]

Joby Aviation, Archer Aviation, Boeing’s Wisk Aero, and other eVTOL air taxi companies are still years away from commercial service. That’s also true for the personal eVTOL space…with the exception of Pivotal, formerly Opener Aero.

Pivotal so far is the only eVTOL manufacturer to actually sell and deliver its aircraft to paying customers in the U.S.—in other words, they own the vehicle outright. For now, a half dozen customers own BlackFly, Pivotal’s preproduction design. But the company last week unveiled Helix, a scalable production model it hopes will become the first personal eVTOL on the market.

I got to fly a BlackFly simulator at UP.Summit in Dallas—the aircraft featured a single seat with joystick controllers on either armrest. That’s it, as far as flight controls go. UP.Summit attendees were also treated to a BlackFly demonstration flight, where the aircraft showed off transitions between vertical flight, hover, and cruise. Helix is expected to include more robust hardware and an upgraded propulsion system that will extend the aircraft’s range of uses.

On the Horizon…

The FAA’s authority was recently extended through December 31, but that doesn’t mean FAA reauthorization is in the rearview mirror. The pressure is still on lawmakers to pass the House reauthorization bill, which calls for measures such as a final BVLOS drone rule and funding for advanced air mobility (AAM)-related activities.

On the topic of AAM, California Governor Gavin Newson signed a bill authored by Senator Anna Caballero (D-Calif.) that would create an AAM and Aviation Electrification Committee for the state. Its job would be to assess current state and federal laws and identify potential changes to ensure safe operations in California. Wisk, Archer, and other manufacturers have facilities in the state; some, such as Joby, plan to fly there.

Meanwhile, India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation loosened its drone laws by removing the passport requirement for obtaining a remote pilot certificate. The move lowers the barrier to verification to encompass documents such as a photo ID or driver’s license, which should open the industry to more drone pilots.

Mark Your Calendars

Each week, I’ll be running through a list of upcoming industry events. The FAI World Drone Racing Championship wrapped up Monday in Seoul, South Korea, but here are a few conferences to keep an eye on:

Tweet of the Week

Want to see your tweet here next week? Have comments or feedback? Share your thoughts on X, formerly Twitter, and tag me (@jack_daleo)! Or check out FLYING’s media accounts:

I want to hear your questions, comments, concerns, and criticisms about everything in the modern flying space, whether they’re about a new drone you just bought or the future of space exploration. Reach out to or tweet me @jack_daleo with your thoughts.

Jack is a staff writer covering advanced air mobility, including everything from drones to unmanned aircraft systems to space travel—and a whole lot more. He spent close to two years reporting on drone delivery for FreightWaves, covering the biggest news and developments in the space and connecting with industry executives and experts. Jack is also a basketball aficionado, a frequent traveler and a lover of all things logistics.

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