Package delivery giant UPS said Tuesday it became the first company to obtain US regulatory approval to operate a “drone airline” and would expand its airborne operations in healthcare and other sectors.
UPS said it was the first applicant to win full certification from the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing it to fly an unlimited number of drones with an unlimited number of remote operators.
“This is history in the making, and we aren’t done yet,” said David Abney, UPS chief executive.
“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.”
UPS earlier this year partnered with the technology firm Matternet on delivery of medical products and specimens in North Carolina.
“UPS is ready to build on this application and expand to a variety of critical-care or lifesaving applications,” a company statement said.
Abney said the UPS Flight Forward unit “is building a full-scale drone operation based on the rigorous reliability, safety, and control requirements of the FAA.”
US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao 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 (drone pilot program) to maintain American leadership in unmanned aviation.”
The news comes with a variety of companies ranging from new startups to major tech firms such as Amazon and Uber working on autonomous drone delivery.