Drone delivery progress took another step forward on Wednesday. The Federal Aviation Commission said it authorized two more companies to fly drones beyond the ground operator’s line of sight at, or below, 400 feet.
UPS’s Flight Froward Matternet M2 is cleared to conduct small package deliveries, and uAvoinix Corp.’s Rapace drone can test its detect and avoid technology, according to the FAA.
Flying drones beyond visual line of sight, or BVLOS, means drones are closer to being used for widespread package delivery and other commercial uses. This could lead to a time when drone deliveries are more commonplace, with the unmanned aerial devices able to cover more distances.
So far, the FAA authorized Phoenix Air Unmanned to fly SwissDrones SVO 50 V20 out of the visual line of sight to conduct aerial work, photography, surveys and inspections. The agency sought public input about requests from UPS, uAvoinix, Phoenix Air Unmanned and Zipline, which is still waiting for FAA approval.
“Data collected from these operations will inform the FAA’s ongoing policy and rulemaking activities,” the release said.
The agency’s long-term goal is to integrate drones into the National Airspace System instead of delegating a separate airspace for drone use only.
Companies have been exploring and testing drone delivery for the last few years. So far, drones have successfully delivered grocery orders, home goods, medication – even pizza.
In the last two months, Walmart and Amazon have both made strides in drone delivery.
Walmart’s partnership with Google-owned Wing, extended service to two more store locations in Texas and with it 60,000 more homes. Amazon hasn’t been working on drone delivery as long as Walmart but has completed 100 drone deliveries so far with similar hopes of speedier delivery, lower costs and more online sales.