Wing, the Alphabet-owned startup, has become the first drone delivery company to gain the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval to make commercial deliveries in the US. Bloomberg reports that the company was granted the regulator’s blessing after fulfilling many of the safety requirements of a traditional airline.
Gaining the FAA’s approval as an airline was necessary for the way Wing wants to operate its drone deliveries. Current FAA regulations prevent a drone from being flown outside of an operator’s line of sight, while licenses for automated deliveries have previously only been granted for demonstrations where drone companies haven’t been allowed to accept payment for their services. Gaining the FAA’s approval as an airline meant creating safety manuals and training routines and implementing a safety hierarchy.
The approval means that Wing, which has the same parent company as Google, can start making deliveries in Virginia in the coming months, where it plans to deliver goods from local businesses to rural communities in Blacksburg and Christiansburg. Wing will be able to apply for the FAA’s permission to expand to other regions in the future.
The FAA is the second regulator to have given Wing the go-ahead to launch a commercial drone delivery service. Earlier this month, the Australian regulator CASA granted the Alphabet-owned startup the right to make deliveries in Canberra to around 100 homes after the conclusion of a successful 18-month trial that involved 3,000 deliveries.
For Wing, gaining the FAA’s approval took months, but Bloomberg notes that the process is likely to be a lot quicker for future drone delivery companies now that the regulator has worked out which airline rules are appropriate for drone operators. These competitors could include Amazon’s Prime Air, which has yet to launch a commercial drone delivery service, despite having performed its first public demonstration in the US back in 2017.