Google’s Alphabet gets FAA go-ahead for first U.S. drone deliveries

©Wing Aviation drone with food delivery

The Wing Aviation unit of Alphabet Inc, a sister unit of Google, has become the first U.S. company to be awarded air carrier certification by the FAA. As a result, Wing aims to commence food deliveries by drone in Blacksburg, Virginia, later this year. This means drones will be operated beyond line of sight and will have permission to fly over people but will be restricted to daytime flights. According to Wing data, there is a lower risk to pedestrians from drone deliveries than there is from deliveries made by automobiles.

According to Reuters, Wing partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and Virginia Tech as one of the participants in the Transportation Department’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program. Commenting on the certification, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said that: “This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy. Safety continues to be our number one priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential.”

The FAA confirmed that Wing had successfully shown its operations met the agency’s safety requirements based on extensive data and documentation, as well as thousands of safe flights conducted in Australia. Wing has recently commenced commercial air delivery service in the north of Canberra, Australia, and will shortly begin its first European trial when it starts delivering to homes in Helsinki, Finland.

With the U.S. lagging behind many other countries in terms of drone experimentation, in May 2018, Chao announced approval for 10 projects to help assess how to regulate drones and integrate them safely into U.S. air space.

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