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U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded air carrier and operator certification to an unmanned aircraft system (UAS, or drone) delivery company, UPS Flight Forward.
“This is a big step forward in safely integrating unmanned aircraft systems into our airspace, expanding access to healthcare in North Carolina and building on the success of the national UAS Integration Pilot Program to maintain American leadership in unmanned aviation,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.
Through the Department’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP), the FAA has now approved a Part 135 operating certificate for UPS Flight Forward. This allows the company to perform revenue-generating package delivery activities within federal regulations. UPS Flight Forward may now operate multiple drones under one certificate. Under Part 135, the company can deliver vital healthcare supplies including by flying beyond visual line of sight.
As a participant in the U.S. Transportation Department’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) partnered with UPS Flight Forward. As the operator, they have been engaged in delivery of healthcare supplies around a major hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. The flights have focused on the delivery of blood for potentially life-saving transfusions, as well as other medical samples for lab work.
The company demonstrated that its operations met the FAA’s rigorous safety requirements to qualify for an air carrier certificate. This is based on extensive data and documentation, as well as test flights.