Alphabet-backed Wing on Tuesday was certified as a small airline for commercial drone delivery in the U.S., the first company to obtain the designation from the Federal Aviation Administration as the White House eyes how to effectively regulate the technology.
The Google-aligned firm intends to deliver everyday items like medicine and food to consumers’ front doors, a method that Wing says poses a lower risk than vehicle transportation based on 70,000 test flights in Australia.
“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
Wing has been operating its drones in southwest Virginia as part of an FAA program that designated several sites around the country for testing. The company is hoping to recruit potential customers in the area for its package delivery system, it said in a blog post announcing the federal approval.
Existing federal regulations prohibit companies from taking payment for deliveries that extend beyond an operator’s line of sight.
The Trump administration is working on crafting regulations to govern the burgeoning industry, including draft rules released earlier this year that would allow more drone operators to fly over people and at night. The White House is still working on rules related to the remote identification of drones
Other tech giants like Amazon, along with traditional package delivery firms like DHL Express, are working on developing their own drones that could eventually replace vehicle transit.