UPS Flight Forward has received the US government’s first full Part 135 Standard certification to operate a drone airline. The company will initially expand its current drone delivery service to support more hospital campuses around the US, and to provide solutions for customers beyond those in the healthcare industry.
In the future UPS Flight Forward plans to transport a variety of items for customers in many industries, and regularly fly drones beyond the operators’ visual line of sight.
The US FAA awarded UPS Flight Forward a Part 135 Standard certification last week. A Part 135 Standard operator is a certificate holder that does not have preset limits on the available size or scope of its operations.
UPS already operates a drone delivery service in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is to transport medical supplies between hospitals on the WakeMed campus using a Matternet M2 quadcopter. Before receiving Part 135 these operations were undertaken under a government exemption allowing for a ‘beyond visual line of sight’ (BVLOS) operation.
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 company also plans a rapid build-out of ground-based, detect-and-avoid technologies to verify drone safety, construct a centralized operations control center and team up with additional drone manufacturers to build new drones with varying cargo capacities.
“This is history in the making, and we aren’t done yet,” said David Abney, UPS CEO. “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.”