The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday announced it had granted UPS approval to operate a fleet of drones, allowing it to dramatically expand its unmanned delivery operations.
The Sandy Springs-based shipping giant said it is the first time federal regulators have issued such a broad certification. It will permit the company's drone subsidiary, UPS Flight Forward, to operate what it calls a “drone airline" on hospitals and other campuses. Eventually, it wants to transport other items for businesses.
The move comes amid fierce competition in the shipping business to meet soaring demand.
Doorstep drone deliveries are still years away. But in campus environments, the certificate places no limits on the size or scope of UPS Flight Forward allowing it to fly an unlimited number of drones controlled by an unlimited number of operators, UPS said. The FAA certificate allows UPS Flight Forward to operate drones beyond line of sight, at night and weighing over 55 pounds. It will still need to get exemptions approved by the FAA for certain uses and trials.