The Heron UAV, which was developed and built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)
, landed on September 16 at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport, becoming the first drone ever to navigate commercial airspace and land at an international airport alongside commercial flights. The UAV
took off from Ein Shemer airfield, landed at Ben Gurion, and flew back to Ein Shemer. The takeoffs, flights, and landings were all conducted from the Ein Shemer control station. According to IAI, the historic landing proves the maturity and safety of the company's Long Runner operating system, which allows UAVs to take off and land automatically on long-haul routes of 1,500 km or more using satellite communications technology and a combination of accurate takeoff and automatic landing capability.
In November 2005, media reports claimed that India was set to purchase some 50 Heron MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) UAVs from Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) in a deal worth $220 million. They would be put to use carrying out reconnaissance missions on India’s mountainous borders with China and Pakistan, and along India’s long coastal waters. India was said to have been close to sealing the deal in 2004, but it was postponed due to the change in governments in New Delhi.
The Heron’s performance during the December 2004 tsunami apparently clinched the deal. Its performance since, and Chinese aggression on the Indian border, has green-lighted a follow-on contract.