UPS receives approval to fly commercial drones – Axios
The big picture: Unmanned aerial vehicles have the potential to transform our daily lives, but not until regulators can be sure they won’t fall from the sky or crash into other aircraft.
- The Trump administration has taken steps to try to speed up the rollout of drone technology, including a series of pilot projects to demonstrate how they could be operated safely.
- UPS’ approval comes after the company had already made 1,100 medical sample deliveries at a Raleigh, N.C., hospital under one such pilot program.
Details: The certification deems UPS’ drones safe for flight, but individual flight paths and use cases must be approved.
- Importantly, the drones can fly beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight, which hasn’t been allowed until now.
- It also lets UPS drones fly at night and carry cargo that weighs more than 55 pounds.
- UPS said it will start by setting up a fleet of unmanned aircraft to deliver health supplies within medical campuses and eventually expand to deliver consumer packages in a few years.
- “It just gives us a lot of capabilities,” CEO David Abney told the Wall Street Journal. “We’re going to move ahead quickly and expand rapidly,” he said. “It’s not going to be a small operation.”
- Within months, Abney said UPS could be using drones in 100 or more hospital complexes.
- The business case for drones is compelling, UPS tells Axios, because it replaces the need to contract with more costly same-day couriers.
- And customers like hospitals see value in fast drone delivery of lab specimens, for example, so they’re willing to pay more for the service, UPS says.
Yes, but: Significant regulatory hurdles remain for UPS and other companies, including Amazon and Uber, that hope to win approval for their own drone fleets.
- Drones may not fly over urban areas under current FAA rules.
- FAA needs to define standards that would let authorities remotely identify drones.
The bottom line: Almost 6 years ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ pronouncement that drones would deliver packages to your door seemed like a silly pipe dream. Now, it appears to be taking off.