UPS now operates the first official drone airline with a full Part-135 FAA certification.
UPS, which operates 564 owned and leased traditional airplanes, has long been in the business of delivering parcels as well as heavy cargo, and now plans to use drone technologies to expand its scope. The company plans to announce strategic partnerships with drone makers, designers of traffic-management systems, and customers such as retailers. As a certified airline operator, UPS prioritizes and specializes in logistics. Thus, it will continue to rely on the technologies of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to enable its vision, just as companies such as Boeing have supplied UPS with commercial jets for years.
Prior to this month’s Part-135 certification acquisition, UPS has been conducting drone deliveries at a large hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. The operations have been ongoing since March of this year, and are in collaboration with drone technology company Matternet. As explained in a recent press release, “the company will initially expand its drone delivery service further to support hospital campuses around the country, and to provide solutions for customers beyond those in the healthcare industry. UPS Flight Forward plans in the future to transport a variety of items for customers in many industries, and regularly fly drones beyond the operators’ visual line of sight (BVLOS).” In fact, the company has already completed its first flight BVLOS – immediately after acquiring the certification – by performing a revenue delivery at WakeMed’s hospital campus in Raleigh, N.C.
UPS has beaten out competitors, such as Amazon’s Prime Air and Alphabet’s Wing, as the first to receive a full Part-135 certification. This will allow the operator to begin revenue flights of its commercial drone service throughout the entire United States. Wing recently received a similar certification, but with limited scope – the company is currently permitted to operate only in Christiansburg, VA, and with only one pilot, under a ‘Single pilot air carrier certificate’.
Why it’s important: As stated by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in an FAA release on Tuesday, “this is a big step forward in safely integrating unmanned aircraft systems into our airspace, expanding access to healthcare in North Carolina and building on the success of the national UAS Integration Pilot Program to maintain American leadership in unmanned aviation.” The certification paves a way for future drone airlines to stand up commercial operations, without being restricted to line-of-sight or daytime flights.
Source // UPS Pressroom