Aug 18, 2019 | Updated: 07:24 AM EDT

Drones Approved to Make US Home Deliveries

Apr 24, 2019 08:13 AM EDT

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Wing drone delivering a package.
(Photo : Wing)

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has certified Wing Aviation LLC. (owned by Google's parent company Alphabet)  to operate as an airline wherein its drones will carry food and medicine from local shops to customers' homes. The company which began as a Google X project has been testing its autonomous drones in southwest Virginia and elsewhere.  This means that the drone company is allowed to deliver cargo and travel longer distances but is subject to the same regulations as chartered flights.  The FAA says Wing was able to qualify for an air carrier certificate because it has shown "its operations met the FAA's rigorous safety requirements.

"This was true since according to Wings, they had to create extensive manuals, training routines and a safety hierarchy like an aircraft carrier.  In fact, some drone companies have complained that the process of obtaining air-carrier certification was too onerous since many of the requirements didn't apply to them like having flight attendants, but surprisingly, Wings was able to surpass all these.

"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," Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao said in a statement from the agency.

Wings' drones are meant to deliver a wide range of everyday items, from food and drinks to medicine and emergency supplies thus they are powered by 14 propellers (most of which are top-mounted) to allow them to carry loads of up to 3.3 pounds. 

For the company to receive the certification, they presented the premise that drone deliveries carry a lower risk to pedestrians than those made by cars.  Furthermore, they also stated that the project will reduce carbon emissions and road congestion and increase connections between communities and local businesses.

Alphabet's Wing is the first amongst the many companies to be approved for drone delivery services in the United States, but this might likely make it easier for other companies to receive approval in the future. In fact, it is directly competing with Amazon's unmanned delivery system, Prime Air, presented by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last 2013.  

Wing initially ran testing of its drone delivery system in Canberra, Australia in 2014 and since then it has flown over 70,000 test flights and delivered thousands of packages as well.  Their first few partners were local coffee shops, bakery and gelato shops, chocolatiers and a taqueria.  Thought they initially had to deal with concerns over noise and privacy issues in previous tests.

Besides Google and Amazon, DHL and UPS have also been developing each of their own drone delivery systems.

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