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UPS pushes FAA for drone delivery permission

Another big package delivery company has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to fly drones for commercial air delivery. UPS said in a July 23 statement that it plans to expand on an initial program to deliver medical samples for a North Carolina hospital if the FAA approves the certificate.

The delivery giant also formed a subsidiary business, UPS Flight Forward, to operate the business.

“When approved, this certification lays the foundation for drone flights beyond an operator’s visual line of sight and for flights occurring day or night,” UPS officials said in the statement. Flights beyond the line of sight of operators require special FAA approval.

In March, under FAA’s oversight, UPS began using drones to supplement its ground deliveries of medical samples to WakeMed’s flagship hospital in Raleigh, N.C. “UPS intends to expand its drone delivery service to other hospitals or campus settings,” according to the company’s statement.

UPS’ application is the latest in a string of requests for the FAA’s stamp of approval for commercial drone delivery services. On June 5, the agency granted a "special airworthy certificate" to Amazon while it develops its Prime Air service. The certificate allows the company to "operate its MK27 unmanned aircraft for research and development and crew training in authorized flight areas," the FAA said in a statement.

The FAA has also made it easier for hobbyist drone operators to receive permission to fly near airports. On July 23, the agency expanded the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability system to include recreational flyers. LAANC gives drone pilots near-real-time authorization to fly under 400 feet in controlled airspace and gives air traffic controllers information on where and when authorized drones are flying near airports.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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