FAA gives UPSFF the green light for BVLOS

08 September 2023
Matternet’s M2 drone will be used to expand UPSFF’s parcel delivery service and will replace visual observers to monitor the airspace. Source: Matternet

UPS Flight Forward (UPSFF) has been given approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to send Matternet M2 drones beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) for package delivery.

UPSFF, a wholly owned subsidiary of United Parcel Service, is now allowed to send these M2 drones without requiring any visual observers to monitor the airspace. This can typically be expensive and will be replaced by installing a ground-based radar to scan the skies for air traffic conflicts and alert a remote pilot in command.

The FAA gave approval to UPSFF and Matternet after previously giving such certifications to Iris Automation, Zipline, Phoenix Air Unmanned and uAvionix.

Managing air risk

UPSFF will use the Matternet Mission Control software for its remote operations center to control up to three aircraft per pilot and allow centralized control of multiple aircraft by one pilot. Ground-based sensors— either radar, optical or acoustic — will be used to manage air risk for BVLOS operations and autonomously operate the flight of the Matternet drones.

For Matternet, the approval will allow it to expand into new markets and continue home delivery.

The importance of BVLOS

The FAA has been accelerating its approval for BVLOS aircraft as drone delivery for packages and food is proliferating globally and issued its final drone BVLOS guidelines last year.

BVLOS allows drone operators to conduct complex drone operations where the device flies beyond a point where the operator can see it. This could be through a camera attached to the drone or for autonomous flight operations without a pilot.

BVLOS is seen as the next great chapter in drone delivery and drone operations as it will allow these unmanned aircraft to travel farther than ever before for both reconnaissance missions for the military or rescue maneuvers and to allow startups to take packages across larger distances to expand last-mile logistics operations. For parcel delivery, this will allow drones to reach even more consumers than before, giving a new option for last-mile logistics.

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