Matternet, the developer of the world’s leading urban drone delivery system, has announced that its partner, UPS Flight Forward (UPSFF), a wholly owned subsidiary of UPS (United Parcel Service), received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate the Matternet M2 drone beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) for package delivery.
With this approval, UPSFF will now be able to fly the Matternet M2 drone without requiring expensive Visual Observers to monitor the airspace.
UPSFF 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 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.”
This authorization is also notable because the exemption will serve as a template for future exemptions which permit ground-based sensors (whether RADAR, optical, or acoustic) to be used to manage air risk for true BVLOS operations. UPSFF will use the Matternet Mission Control software in their Remote Operations Center to control up to 3 aircraft per pilot, which will permit for centralized control of multiple aircraft by one pilot, a key step in improving the economics of drone delivery and supporting the expansion.
With this development, companies are authorized to autonomously operate the flights of their drones, leading to an overall increase in operations utilizing FAA-certified drones. This approval also highlights Matternet’s regulatory leadership as an advanced drone delivery company.
“This is an important moment in our company’s history and will allow us to increase scale while continuing to change the way goods are transported and delivered,” said Jim O’Sullivan, Vice President of Regulatory Strategy and Special Projects at Matternet.
“We have always known drone delivery companies can solve numerous challenges. This approval will advance the regulatory framework in a way that encourages wider drone adoption throughout the world.”