Logistics master UPS has won the race to be the first Part 135 Standard certified operator of a drone airline. This certification means UPS does not have size or scope limitations on its drone airline operations.
October 14 marked UPS Flight Forward’s first drone delivery flight under its new FAA certification, delivering medical supplies to WakeMed’s hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. UPS’s certification allows its fleet to have as many drones and remote operators as it wishes, payloads in excess of 55 pounds, and permission to fly out of the line of sight both day and night.
- UPS CEO David Abney on upcoming drone deliveries
- UPS wins approval to operate nationwide fleet of drones
This post is based on the Robotics and Automation News article, UPS attains FAA’s first full approval for drone airline, by David Edwards, October 9, 2019, and the YouTube videos, UPS CEO David Abney on upcoming drone deliveries, by CNBC, October 1, 2019, and UPS wins approval to operate nationwide fleet of drones, by CNBC, October 2, 2019. Image source: Shutterstock/Mopic
1. How did UPS position itself to be the first company granted the Part 135 Standard certification?
Guidance: Since the launch of Zipline in Rwanda in October of 2016, UPS has provided the behind-the-scenes logistics expertise for the world’s first fully functioning drone delivery system. Zipline delivers blood and other critical medical supplies throughout Rwanda in a state-of-the-art operating system which UPS helped design.
Building on that background of medical supplies delivery, UPS began testing drone flights on the WakeMed campus. It also tested regular UPS delivery service in rural areas with a drone that exited the top of its package car to deliver to some residences while the UPS driver delivered packages as well. In addition, a senior executive from UPS sat on the FAA’s drone advisory committee for the last couple of years.
These experiences helped position UPS to be granted permission to take what is a huge step forward into bringing unmanned drone systems safely into the U.S. airspace.
2. Why are drone deliveries useful in the medical field, and what other drone deliveries does UPS plan in the future?
Guidance: Improving efficiency and quickly bringing life-saving supplies to medical professionals has proven useful in Rwanda as well as in the U.S. UPS plans to expand its services to new campuses and hospitals across the U.S. with deliveries of various critical care supplies. It also plans to offer other services such as transporting special commodities or commercial deliveries for consumers. Partnering with other drone manufactures to create drones capable of transporting various weights of payloads is also in the works.