Well known logistics companies including, Amazon, Wing/Google, and UPS have made significant strides forward to making unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)/drone package delivery a reality.
Amazon launched the discussion and vision for package delivery by drones in 2013 when Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, provided a 60 Minutes interview on the future of package delivery. He got a lot of attention over Amazon’s R&D tests of delivering packages to doorsteps with drones. Bezos told 60 Minutes, “Half hour delivery/and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.”
Since then the Prime Air delivery drone has been launched as an electric aircraft that is capable of both a helicopter-like vertical takeoff and landing as well as forward flight. “It is the safest and most environmentally responsible and also highly scalable,” according to Prime Air vice president Gur Kimchi.
In April, Wing Aviation, the drone delivery arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet, became the first American company granted FAA approval for commercial delivery. The FAA issued a Part 135 Single pilot air carrier certificate for drone operations to Wing Aviation, LLC in April 2019. Wing is providing air delivery to communities on three continents, including delivering products from 20 local businesses in Australia; in Finland, testing delivery to apartment complexes; and delivering packages, over-the-counter medicines, snacks and gifts in Southwest Virginia’s New River Valley.
And as reported by UAM Airinsight (UAM Insight – 3 October 2019 UPS Drone Delivery Now An Airline), UPS new division for drone deliveries, UPS Flight Forward, Inc., became the first company to receive a Standard Part 135 air carrier certificate to operate a drone aircraft. On September 27, 2019, UPS Flight Forward conducted its first package delivery by drone with its part 135 certification when it flew medical supplies at WakeMed’s hospital campus in Raleigh, NC.
According to FAA, Part 135 certification is the only path for small drones to carry the property of another for compensation beyond visual line of sight. All part 135 applicants must go through the full five phases of the certification process. FAA reports that the agency is currently working on six additional part 135 air carrier certificate applications.
Small package delivery is creating a pathway for larger passenger carrying Urban Air Mobility aircraft through modifications of the FAA operating regulations under Part 135. T