FAA Approves First Commercial Drone Delivery Service

Wing Aviation can start delivering packages in Virginia.

Wing Aviation can start delivering packages in Virginia.
Customers in Virginia will soon be able to order small items for delivery by UAS.Courtesy Virginia Tech

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced that the FAA has provided certification for commercial drone service operations to Wing Aviation, a Gooogle X project. The certification allows the service to start delivering packages via UAS in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Wing Aviation’s success has come through a collaboration with Virginia Tech’s Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), under the DOT’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program. MAAP specializes in helping companies achieve FAA approvals for UAS operations, whether line of sight or not, and also for operations over populated areas.

The UAS Integration Pilot Program started about two year ago to help with the integration of commercial drone operations. "This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy," said Chao. "Safety continues to be our number one priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential."

The safety requirements established for the certification were developed partially based on data from thousands of UAS operations in Australia, where drone deliveries have already been established for several years.

Wing has been testing its UAS delivery service in Canberra, Australia and in Helsinki, Finland, where customers can order items through an app and have them delivered to their doorsteps by the drones. The delivery status can be tracked on the app. After the delivery is complete, the drone returns to the Wing site. The drones that are currently used weigh about 11 pounds and can only carry up to 3.3 pounds, so you won’t be able to make any major purchases yet.

With this certification, Wing customers can soon start ordering from the Wing app in Virginia. Testing of the program is also being conducted in northern California.