UPS first to receive approval for drone airline

UPS subsidiary UPS Flight Forward Inc. announced Tuesday it has received the U.S. government’s first full Part 135 Standard certification to operate a drone airline. The company 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.

There are no current plans for commercial drone operations in Louisville, Ky. at this time, said Jim Mayer, UPS Airlines public relations manager.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded UPS Flight Forward a Part 135 Standard certification on Friday. The UPS subsidiary immediately launched the first drone delivery flight by any company under Part 135 Standard at WakeMed’s hospital campus in Raleigh, N.C. 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.

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. Earlier this year, UPS partnered with drone-maker Matternet to launch its healthcare delivery service on the WakeMed campus. 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.

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