An offshoot of Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, has become the first drone operator to receive government approval as an airline, an important step that gives it the legal authority to begin dropping products to actual customers. The subsidiary, Wing Aviation LLC, now has the same certifications that smaller airlines receive from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation. It plans to begin routine deliveries of small consumer items in two rural communities in Virginia within months. Drone regulations still do not permit most flights over crowds and urban areas, limiting where Wing can operate. Nevertheless, the approvals signed recently by the FAA give the company the ability to charge for deliveries of clients’ goods in Virginia and apply for permission to expand to other regions.
There has never been a drone company approved under the FAA regulations. Approval requires Wing to create extensive manuals, training routines and a safety hierarchy — just as any air carrier must do. Companies receiving permission must also be majority-owned by U.S. citizens under long-standing restrictions imposed by the DOT. Other drone companies applying for FAA approvals should be able to move more quickly now that the agency and Wing have worked through the issues of what rules should apply to drone operators. Watch this 1 minute video which explains this new delivery service.