German drone delivery company Wingcopter announced on May 11th that the Federal Aviation Administration has issued the Special Class Airworthiness Criteria for the Wingcopter 198 US unmanned aircraft. This approval marks an important milestone in the certification process of Wingcopter’s flagship eVTOL delivery drone in the U.S.
With the Airworthiness Criteria, the FAA defines technological requirements under title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR), § 21.17(b) that must be met to have an aircraft type-certified for regular commercial operations in the U.S.
Besides its efficient design for commercial and humanitarian delivery missions, the Wingcopter 198 was engineered from the ground up to meet stringent safety standards. In the development, Wingcopter was able to leverage the operational experience of more than five years with the company’s first delivery drone type in various geographical settings, from the Arctics to the Middle Eastern desert and from remote islands in the South Pacific to San Diego Bay in the U.S.
Since applying for the Special Class Type Certificate in March 2020, Wingcopter has collaborated closely with the FAA. The issuance allows Wingcopter to focus its development efforts even more on what the FAA deems necessary for this particular aircraft to receive certification quickly and efficiently.
Once type-certified, Wingcopter will be able to fly conventional routes through airspace and over populated areas, ultimately providing the basis for scaling commercial drone delivery operations across the U.S. that will help save and improve lives. The certification is expected to also have a positive impact on Wingcopter’s further certification efforts such as with ANAC in Brazil or JCAB in Japan.
Wingcopter also shared in a press release detailing this development that the company is looking forward to hiring new software and hardware development engineers, as well as flight test engineers, production engineers, sales, and drone-as-a-service personnel to advance the progress and mission of Wingcopter.
Why it’s important: Wingcopter’s FAA release of airworthiness requirements for the Wingcopter 198 unmanned sUAS creates an interesting dichotomy between the FAA’s recent decision to part ways with a manned eVTOL certification process that leverage similarities of eVTOLs to conventional aircraft to smoothen the path toward certification and the relative ease of approval for sUAS systems that are completely unmanned, as unmanned systems presumably pose less of a threat to the general public given their areas of operation aren’t constrained. However, as more and more eVTOL concepts become defined and advance toward autonomous capabilities, OEM’s will likely start to make the case for certification of these systems as autonomous “unmanned” aerial systems.