Alphabet's Wing becomes first drone delivery firm to win FAA approval in the US

Key Points
  • The company's all-electric drones have already made more than 70,000 test flights and completed more than 3,000 deliveries in Australia.
  • Wing says the certification means it can start a commercial service that delivers goods from local businesses to U.S. households.
A Wing drone delivers a package to a home during a demonstration in Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018.
Charles Mostoller | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Wing, an initiative of Google's parent company Alphabet, has received Air Carrier Certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The certificate allows a firm to carry out state-to-state or overseas transportation.

In a blog post Tuesday, Wing said the certification meant that it could start a commercial service that delivers goods from local businesses to U.S. households. Wing is the first drone delivery firm to get certification from the FAA.

"This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy," Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in a statement. "Safety continues to be our number one priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential."

To get FAA certification, Wing said it had to provide evidence that its operations were safe. It added that it had supplied submissions including data that demonstrated how a delivery from Wing carried "a lower risk to pedestrians than the same trip made by car."

The company's drones — which are electric — have already made more than 70,000 test flights and completed more than 3,000 deliveries in Australia.

Wing said it would be getting in touch with businesses and residents in Blacksburg and Christiansburg, Virginia, over the next few months. The purpose of this would be to demonstrate its technology, respond to questions and garner feedback, with the company aiming to start a delivery trial later in the year.

At the beginning of April, Wing launched a commercial delivery service in Australia's capital, Canberra.

In a statement at the time, Wing said the service would enable users to order items including fresh food, hot coffee, and over-the-counter chemist items using a mobile app. Once an order is placed, a drone will be able to make deliveries "in minutes."

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority said Wing had "satisfied us that their operation meets an acceptable level of safety."

It said Wing had been required to submit a safety case as part of their application, which included information relating to the reliability of its drones.

"Following an assessment of the safety case, we have permitted Wing to operate over North Canberra and in closer proximity to a person, than our regulations would normally permit," CASA said.

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