UPS yesterday announced that it has applied for certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate commercial drone flights under a subsidiary business called UPS Flight Forward.
Positioned to be one of the first fully-certified drone operations in the US, the new company will focus on developing and operating unmanned aerial systems for revenue-generating deliveries.
The global logistics provider expects its new business to receive the required Part 135 certification as early as this year, enabling UPS Flight Forward to complete routine flights.
The certification lays the foundation for drone flights beyond an operator’s visual line of sight and for flights occurring day or night. Such flights are highly restricted in the United States and approved only by exception.
“UPS is committed to using technology to transform the way we do business,” said Scott Price, UPS chief transformation and strategy officer. “UPS’s formation of a drone delivery company and application to begin regular operations under this level of certification is historic for UPS and for the drone and logistics industries, overall.”
In contrast to more-limited FAA certifications for drone flights for other companies, UPS Flight Forward would operate under the FAA’s full Part 135 certification, which conveys a legal designation to a company as a certified Air Carrier and Operator.
Currently, UPS is operating drone healthcare deliveries under a specific use-case under FAA Part 107 rules.
In March, UPS initiated the first FAA-sanctioned use of a drone for routine revenue flights involving the transport of a product under a contractual delivery agreement in the United States at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in the Raleigh, N.C. In this program, the company delivers medical samples via unmanned drones, supplementing a ground courier service. UPS has said it intends to expand its drone delivery service to other hospitals or campus settings.