UPS announced Tuesday that it had received the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) first full Part 135 Standard certification to operate a drone airline across the U.S.
UPS is currently expanding drone networks on academic and hospital campuses across the country, and will shortly expand to other businesses. During the build-out, UPS Flight Forward plans to go beyond the line of sight, which means the drones could one day fly from city to city, or even across the country.
The FAA awarded UPS Flight Forward a Part 135 Standard certification last Friday, and with-in 12 hours, the UPS subsidiary launched deliveries at WakeMed's hospital campus in Raleigh, N.C.
UPS teamed up with Matternet, to produce the M2 quadcopter, was flown under an FAA exemption allowing for a "beyond visual line of sight." The drone can fly upwards of 6 miles, weather permitted of course, and carry a payload of about 5 pounds.
@somedroneguy =first_name, we have big news! UPS Flight Forward has just become the @FAANews's first filly approved drone airline. Read more about this game-changing news below: #UPSdrones https://t.co/YOJd25lU1j pic.twitter.com/MtmD6Jr0Zw— UPS (@UPS) October 1, 2019
UPS' drone delivery service on the WakeMed campus is the first-ever revenue-generating service for drone delivery of medical products and specimens. The Part 135 certification will allow UPS to build a more extensive network that could extend outside the campus, could eventually connect other universities or businesses.
"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."
Part 135 also allows UPS drones to carry more than 55 pounds of cargo and fly at night. This will enable UPS drones to fly from city to city, and or even from state to state, and in some cases, across the country. UPS is building small networks at campuses, will eventually connect them as nodes -- this will be part of a large logistical drone network that could extend across the country by 2025.
"UPS Flight Forward is benefitting from our knowledge as one of the world's leading airlines. The Flight Forward organization is building a full-scale drone operation based on the rigorous reliability, safety, and control requirements of the FAA," Abney said.
"This is a big step forward in safely integrating unmanned aircraft systems into our airspace, expanding access to healthcare in North Carolina and building on the success of the national UAS Integration Pilot Program to maintain American leadership in unmanned aviation," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.
UPS is in the beginning innings of building out a nationwide drone network by creating local nodes in academia and hospital campuses first. Then will eventually link the nodes into an interconnected national system, that will have various types of drones making localized deliveries, and or ones that will make long-distance ones. This logistical network in the sky, using drones and artificial intelligence, could displace tens of thousands of UPS workers by 2030.