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FAA: UPS Can Expand Use of Drones for Delivery

In a ruling that may allow UPS to grow its drone operations, the FAA has granted the company permission to operate delivery devices beyond visual line-of-sight regulations.
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Parcel delivery behemoth UPS has been given approval by the Federal Aviation Administration to use delivery drones that operate beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) regulations, the department recently announced.

UPS’ Flight Forward division — with drone maker Matternet’s M2 drones — can conduct small package delivery, the FAA said in a Sept. 6 letter to Eric Johan Bergesen, Director of Operations for UPS Flight Forward.

“The FAA’s long-term goal is to safely integrate drones into the National Airspace System rather than set aside separate airspace exclusively for drones,” the department said in a news release.

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With approval in hand, UPS will now be able to fly drones without requiring expensive visual observers to monitor the airspace, Matternet said in its own news release. UPS will be able to remove visual observers by installing a ground-based RADAR to scan the skies for potential air traffic conflicts and alert a remote pilot in command. Matternet said that is sees ground-based RADARs as a “scalable approach to true BVLOS operations when used to cover a wide area and with the cost of the infrastructure shared across multiple users.”

“We are thrilled by this approval from the FAA and know this will play a significant role in the scaling of drone delivery services throughout the United States,” said Andreas Raptopoulos, Founder and CEO of Matternet. “We are excited to continue our partnership with UPSFF to grow our services and enable drone delivery at scale. This is another step in our journey to make drone delivery a common part of everyday life.”

The ruling will likely allow UPS to grow its drone operations. The company will begin remotely operated drone flights in North Carolina, Florida, Ohio and potentially other states, according to a Supply Chain Dive analysis of the announcement.

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