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UPS Takes Steps To Launch Drone Deliveries

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UPS announced that it has applied for a certification to operate commercial drone flights.

The company applied to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Part 135 certification under a subsidiary business called UPS Flight Forward. It could receive the certification as early as this year, enabling UPS to have one of the first fully-certified, revenue-generating drone operations in the country.

The certification allows drone flights beyond an operator’s visual line of sight, and for flights occurring day or night.

“UPS is committed to using technology to transform the way we do business,” Scott Price, UPS chief transformation and strategy officer, said in a press release. “UPS’s formation of a drone delivery company and application to begin regular operations under this level of certification is historic for UPS and for the drone and logistics industries.”

The company currently operates drone healthcare deliveries in a specific use-case under FAA Part 107 rules. In March, UPS initiated the first FAA-sanctioned use of a drone as part of a delivery agreement at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in Raleigh, N.C. UPS delivers medical samples via unmanned drones, with plans to expand its drone delivery service to other hospitals or campus settings.

The move comes as Amazon recently announced it’s going to have a drone delivery service within months. The drone will be able to lift off and land like a helicopter, and it’s more stable than previous Amazon drone models. It can also see objects in motion around it better than the human eye.

While it is unknown where the drones will be deployed, in the past, Amazon has delivered by drone in the U.K.

Jeff Wilke, CEO of Worldwide Consumer, said the fully-electric drones can fly up to 15 miles and that Amazon is going to continue to build facilities closer to urban areas. The drones can transport packages that weigh less than five pounds, which is the majority of what the eCommerce retailer sells.

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