Google Wing Drones Gain FAA Approval For US Home Deliveries

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FAA grants permission for Wing drones to deliver to homes in Virginia in the coming months

Alphabet’s Wing division has scored another important milestone after the aviation regulator in the United States (the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA) granted it permission to begin home deliveries.

The FAA said that Wing Aviation had gained the approval after it “demonstrated that its operations met the FAA’s rigorous safety requirements to qualify for an air carrier certificate.”

The US win comes after Wing claimed the launch of the world’s first commercial drone delivery service in Australia earlier this month.

A Wing drone prototype is shown carrying a payload. Credit: Alphabet

Drone airline

Wing began delivering takeaway food, coffee and medicines by drone to about 100 homes in Canberra (Australia) after that country’s aviation authority granted it regulatory approval for the move.

And now Wing has scored a hugely important win, after it was granted approval to begin drone deliveries in the United States.

“US Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao today announced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded the first air carrier certification to a drone delivery company, Wing Aviation,” said the FAA.

“The certification paved the way for Wing Aviation to begin commercial package delivery in Blacksburg, VA.”

The FAA said that Wing had partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and Virginia Tech, to help gets its certification.

Essentially, under US rules Wing had to get the FAA’s approval as an airline, if it wanted operate its drone deliveries in the United States.

This is because current FAA regulations prevent a drone from being flown outside of an operator’s line of sight. Licenses have been granted in the past for automated deliveries for demonstration purposes only, and not for commercial businesses.

These restrictions have led to frustration for drone companies in the past.

In 2015 for example Amazon said it had been testing its “Prime Air” delivery drones in Canada’s British Columbia, after the e-commerce giant had previously criticised the US rules as an overly restrictive to the technology.

And it has been tough for Wing, as it apparently had to create safety manuals and training routines. It also had to implement a safety hierarchy, in order to get the FAA approval as an airline.

Safety priority

“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy,” said US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. “Safety continues to be our Number One priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential.”

The FAA said that Wing had demonstrated that its operations met the FAA’s rigorous safety requirements to qualify for an air carrier certificate.

“This is based on extensive data and documentation, as well as thousands of safe flights conducted in Australia over the past several years,” the FAA said.

It also mentioned that Wing will reach out to the local community before it begins food delivery, to gather feedback to inform its future operations.

It is worth noting that Amazon’s drone delivery service has yet to launch commercially, despite a number of high profile trial deliveries in the UK and the US.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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