Home » 3PL/4PL, Aviation, Breaking News » New UPS drone airline makes first delivery flight

United Parcel Service’s (UPS) new subsidiary UPS Flight Forward Inc. has launched its first revenue-generating drone delivery flight after becoming the first fully certified U.S. drone operations.

Newly formed UPS Flight Forward in a statement October 1 said it received on September 30 the U.S. government’s first full Part 135 Standard certification to operate a drone airline.

With the certification by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the UPS subsidiary immediately launched its first drone delivery flight under Part 135 Standard at WakeMed’s hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina.

That flight, using a Matternet M2 quadcopter, was flown under a government exemption allowing for a “beyond visual line of sight” (BVLOS) operation, also a first in the U.S. for a regular revenue-generating delivery.

The new company will develop and operate unmanned aerial systems for revenue-generating deliveries, said the statement. It 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.

“UPS has proven the need for drone delivery in healthcare operations, where the shortest time in transit can improve efficiency and help healthcare professionals serve their patients better,” the statement said.

“This first ever revenue-generating service demonstrated the business case for drone delivery of medical products and specimens. With its Part 135 Standard certification, UPS is ready to build on this application and expand to a variety of critical-care or lifesaving applications,” the release continued.

“This is history in the making, and we aren’t done yet,” said David Abney, UPS chief executive officer. “Our technology is opening doors for UPS and solving problems in unique ways for our customers. We will soon announce other steps to build out our infrastructure, expand services for healthcare customers and put drones to new uses in the future.”

The FAA’s Part 135 Standard certification has no limits on the size or scope of operations. It is the highest level of certification, one that no other company has attained, said UPS.

UPS Flight Forward’s certificate permits the company to fly an unlimited number of drones with an unlimited number of remote operators in command. This enables UPS to scale its operations to meet customer demand.

Part 135 Standard also permits the drone and cargo to exceed 55 pounds and fly at night, previous restrictions governing earlier UPS flights.

The company has a long-term plan that includes the following:

  • Expand the UPS Flight Forward delivery service to new hospitals and medical campuses around the country.
  • Rapidly build out ground-based, detect-and-avoid technologies to verify drone safety, while enabling future service expansion.
  • Construct a centralized operations control center.
  • Have regular and frequent drone flights beyond the operator’s visual line of sight.
  • Partner with additional drone manufacturers to build new drones with varying cargo capacities.
  • Add new services outside of the healthcare industry, including the transport of special commodities and other regulated goods.

Photo courtesy of UPS

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