Commercial, Regulatory, Services

FAA Certifies Wing Aviation as First Drone Cargo Carrier

By Frank Wolfe | April 23, 2019
Send Feedback | @fwolfe18

A Virginia family receives a parcel delivery as part of Wing’s validation testing with the FAA.
(Photo: Wing Aviation LLC)

The Federal Aviation Administration has certified California-based Wing Aviation LLC, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Inc., as the first drone air carrier delivery company. Wing's all-electric, vertical take-off drones, which weigh about 11 pounds, have been carrying small payloads of food and medicines in Finland and Australia.

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

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

Wing said that the certification means that the company is able to begin delivery of goods from local businesses to homes in the United States.

"This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said. "Safety continues to be our number one priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential."

In June 2016, Wing participated in tests convened by NASA and the FAA to explore how to manage drones, and the company said that it demonstrated its Unmanned Traffic Management, real-time route planning, and airspace notifications.

Those who want Wing to deliver food or medicine to their homes download the Wing app to their mobile devices and, once they load their customer profile and verify that Wing services are available in their area, they're able to place orders for local food and goods offered by Wing partners and merchants.

Programmed with the optimal flight path to reach the customers safely and quickly, the aircraft pick up parcels from the merchant's location via an extendable tether while the aircraft hovers above, and the drone then delivers the parcel to a customer and lowers it to the ground via the tether.

The company said that its drones have flown more than 70,000 test flights, and completed more than 3,000 deliveries "to doorsteps, driveways and backyards of our customers in Australia."

Wing said that it will continue its participation in the Transportation Department's Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program in southwest Virginia. Wing has partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and Virginia Tech in the program.

"For the next several months, we’ll be reaching out to businesses and community members in the Blacksburg and Christiansburg areas to demonstrate our technology, answer questions, and solicit feedback with the goal of launching a delivery trial later this year," the company said.

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