UPS announced that it has received government approval to operate a “drone airline.” Don’t expect your next package to arrive directly on your doorstep by a drone, though: UPS says it will first use this certification to build a drone delivery network for hospital campuses around the US. UPS said in July that it was seeking permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the network, and today, it got just that.
Specifically, UPS’s drone delivery subsidiary, UPS Flight Forward, was granted a Part 135 Standard certification. Though drones might not seem like aircraft that need to be regulated like commercial airplanes do, the federal government evaluates them on similar footing. Drone delivery companies have to be certified by the FAA just like companies that fly planes.
UPS says the certification will let the company fly as many drones as it wants, let its drones fly beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight, carry cargo that weighs more than 55 pounds, and fly at night. None of these things are allowed without an exemption from the FAA, and Part 135 Standard clears UPS to do them all the time.
UPS says it’s the first company to get the full Part 135 Standard certification. Other notable companies working on drone delivery, including Amazon Air and Uber Eats, haven’t. However, in April, Alphabet’s Wing received a Part 135 Single pilot air carrier certificate, which basically trusts a single Wing employee to fly drones, not the whole company. Wing says it will use the certification to make deliveries in Virginia.
Below is a video from UPS of what its delivery drones might look like in action. (Listen with headphones to hear UPS’s legendary music selection. I also love the video’s regrettable flying puns.)