Google’s drone delivery subsidiary is taking off with approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, the first project of its kind cleared for commercial use.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the FAA’s decision to award Wing Aviation air carrier certification in a press release Tuesday. Wing, which builds and operates autonomous drones to deliver food, medical supplies and other home goods, can now begin commercial service in the U.S.
The FAA said Wing met its safety requirements through “extensive data and documentation” and proved itself with “several years” of safe flights conducted in Australia, where Wing already offers commercial services. A Wing representative said the certification means it can fly drone “flights beyond visual line of sight and over people.”
“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy,” Chao said in the press release. “Safety continues to be our Number One priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential.”
With FAA approval, Wing can kick off its commercial delivery pilot in the Blacksburg and Christiansburg areas of Virginia through a partnership with Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and Virginia Tech. Wing is one participant in the Transportation Department’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program.
The Google subsidiary will reach out to Virginia community members before beginning its good delivery service, according to the FAA press release, “to gather feedback to inform its future operations.” Wing is also gearing up for its first trial flights in Europe this spring, offering home delivery in Helsinki.
“Wing worked extensively with the FAA over several years to demonstrate the safety of our aircraft, operations and systems to gain this approval,” a Wing representative said in a statement. “Safety is our most important focus, and we’ll continue to work with the FAA on additional approvals to expand our capabilities.”