FAA Clears UPS Drones for Longer Flights

uAvionix Also Cleared; Move Opens Door to Deliveries
UPS drone
UPS used drones to deliver coronavirus vaccines in 2021. (Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist)

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Two more companies have been granted approval to fly drones beyond the sight of ground operators in a key step that could eventually enable widespread package delivery and other commercial uses for the aerial devices.

UPS Inc.’s UPS Flight Forward division and uAvionix Corp. received permission to operate more automated, longer distance flights, the Federal Aviation Administration said Sept. 6. Phoenix Air Unmanned won similar approval on Aug. 24 and another applicant, Zipline International Inc., is awaiting action from FAA.

The drones will be conducting tasks such as aerial inspections, photography and deliveries.

“Data collected from these operations will inform the FAA’s ongoing policy and rulemaking activities,” the agency said in a press release.

The FAA is in the process of devising a set of ground rules governing how drones can operate in the same skies as helicopters and low-flying planes without creating a risk of collision. Up until the recent approvals, the agency has required spotters on the ground to make sure drones don’t stray into the path of other aircraft or obstacles.

Such flights are known as beyond visual line of sight, or BVLOS.

UPS ranks No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America. 

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