UPS said on Tuesday that it has managed to win the US government’s first full approval for operating a drone airline. This has given UPS the lead in the booming US drone delivery business where the likes of Amazon and Alphabet are competing.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted UPS’s Flight Forward drone subsidiary a Part 135 Standard certification on Friday. The company said that the certificate enables it to build on its delivery service in campus settings such as universities and hospitals. However, UPS has made it quite clear that residential deliveries are years away.
The certification has granted UPS pilots permission to fly drones beyond their line of sight and thus opened the doors for the famous delivery company to expand Flight Forward. The company has already doubled 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 further said that this latest certification had cleared the way for Flight Forward to add more campus delivery projects to its list of projects without having to seek 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.’
Thanks to the new FAA approval, UPS Flight Forward pilots will now be able to carry out the operation of multiple drones under a single certificate. The FAA is busy writing rules for drone operations along with instructions for sharing airspace with passenger planes and flying over areas that are populated.