UPS said on Tuesday that it has succeeded to win the US government’s first complete approval for working a drone airline. This has given UPS the edge in the booming US drone delivery business where the counterparts of Amazon and Alphabet are also competing.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded UPS’s Flight Forward drone subsidiary a Part 135 Standard certification on Friday. The company said that the certificate allows it to build on its delivery service in campus environments such as universities and hospitals. However, UPS has made it very clear that residential deliveries are years away.
The certification has allowed UPS pilots permission to fly drones beyond their line of sight and thus opened the doors for the popular delivery company to develop Flight Forward. The company has already increased its number of drone flights for the flagship customer, Raleigh – North Carolina’s WakeMed Health & Hospitals.
The chief strategy and transformation officer for the UPS, Scott Price, said, ‘We’ll easily get to 20-plus flights per day, per drone.’ Speaking about Flight Forward, Price said, ‘It’s a business, it’s not a prototype or a test.’ Flight Forward is paid for carrying blood and tissue samples to WakeMed’s central laboratory from points around the main hospital campus.
UPS also said that this newest certification had cleared the way for Flight Forward to add more campus delivery plans to its list of projects without having to ask approval from the government every time. Price said, ‘There are hundreds of campuses in the United States.’ Elaine Chao, who is the US Secretary of Transportation, said, ‘This is a big step forward in safely integrating unmanned aircraft systems into our airspace.’
After the new FAA approval, UPS Flight Forward pilots will now be able to take out the operation of many drones under a single certificate. The FAA is working writing rules for drone operations along with directions for sharing airspace with passenger planes and flying over regions that are populated.