Google Drone Delivery Service Receives FAA Approval

As reported by Bloomberg, an offshoot of Alphabet Inc.’s Google has become the first drone operator to receive government approval as an airline, an important step that gives it the legal authority to begin dropping products to actual customers.

The subsidiary, Wing Aviation LLC, now has the same certifications that smaller airlines receive from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation. It plans to begin routine deliveries of small consumer items in two rural communities in Virginia within months, the company said.

From Bloomberg: Google Spinoff’s Drone Delivery Business First to Get FAA Approval

Recode reports that Wing will be able to send drones beyond the visual sight of the people operating them in order to deliver goods to consumers. The devices can only be operated during the day, and a pilot can operate as many as five drones at a time. The type of certification Wing received as an air carrier is the same one granted to charter airlines and small air-cargo haulers and means it can fly longer ranges and charge customers.

Wing’s drones have a wingspan of about 3 feet and weigh approximately 11 pounds, and they can carry packages that weigh up to a little more than 3 pounds. They fly up to 400 feet above the ground.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement said the approval was an “important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy.” She also emphasized that safety would be the department’s priority as drone technology is further deployed and developed.

Amazon has for some time been working on drone package delivery via its Amazon Prime Air division, for which it has development centers in the US, UK, Austria, France, and Israel. And George Mason University this year said it would let students have some food and drinks be delivered via drones on the ground.

Still, there is a long way to go before consumer delivery via drone is a widespread reality in the United States. As the Wall Street Journal notes, it probably won’t be until 2020 or 2021 that the FAA implements broader rules for drones that would set out the lay of the land for delivering packages. There are a number of potential issues that still need to be addressed, including noise restrictions, safety, and air traffic control. There are privacy concerns surrounding drone deliveries as well. But Tuesday’s approval signals the FAA is willing to grant some carriers approval even before the final framework is in place.

James Ryan Burgess, Wing’s CEO, spoke with Bloomberg about the approval and said it had been “pivotal” for both the company and the wider drone industry. “It shows these devices can be value-added in our communities,” he said. “They can be a faster, cleaner, less expensive way to transport things while still adding to the safety of society.”

From Recode: Google’s Wing has landed the FAA’s first approval for drone delivery

From Supply Chain 24/7: Matt Yearling, CEO of PINC; Managing Inventory Through Aerial RobotsC

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