The United Parcel Service (UPS) announced it has submitted an application to the FAA to operate commercial delivery drones in the U.S., through a new subsidiary called UPS Flight Forward. Quartz reports: The company has been working closely with the FAA over the last year; in 2018, the agency launched a program to test out drones in a range of autonomous flying situations, and UPS was one of the accepted applicants. It’s been couriering lab samples around the WakeMed hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina, in partnership with the drone startup Matternet. Bala Ganesh, head of UPS’s advanced technology group, says that once the FAA has certified the new company, it plans to build upon the work it’s been doing in healthcare deliveries.
UPS is hoping to get its certification later this year, at which point Ganesh says the company will expand its drone activities in three ways. First, it wants to replicate the work it’s done at WakeMed at other large medical facilities that need lab work ferried around as quickly as possible. It then wants to begin flying farther, using autonomous drones to potentially fly between five and ten miles from their point of origin. (Right now, most drone operations in the US need to be conducted within the line of sight of a pilot.) After that’s been mastered, UPS wants to fly its drones at night. UPS doesn’t plan, at least for the near future, to offer drone deliveries to regular customers, so don’t expect to be getting your next online order delivered to your house by drone. For now, it’s concentrating on small payloads for healthcare