Big commercial drone industry news dropped recently with FAA announcing approval of UPS’ last mile drone delivery business – UPS Flight Forward – for Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) medical supply delivery in North Carolina.
For those using drones in any commercial capacity, not to mention big acre farming, this is big news.
One, it stands to reason this can and eventually will go a long way toward normalizing Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) missions, the likes of which have long freaked out aviation and aerial application professionals who see drones as a legitimate safety threat to manned operations in the National Air Space (NAS).
Yes, since its passage in 2016 the agency has approved many Part 107 Waiver Requests for BVLOS missions. But some, heck, many find FAA’s Part 107 Waiver Process cumbersome and a burden to already time stressed commercial operators. And it makes planning long-term business a pain, as oftentimes waivers for certain operations can take as long as 90 days to come through. FAA has pledged to streamline approvals recently, and that will certainly go a long way towards helping 107s, but it stands to reason an entity doing BVLOS regularly doesn’t want to deal with that process on a regular basis.
And I’d argue that once they’ve demonstrated the proper amount of safety and airspace regulation compliance to satisfy FAA and get a BVLOS waiver, they no longer should have to.
That said, all things being equal, the ability to cover more ground per flight – which is exactly what BVLOS flight allows – could help make drones more of a viable management tool for larger, multi-site ag operations, or even the long-rumored-coming-to-a-farm-near-you independent ag drone service provider that needs to cover as much ground in a single day.
Secondly, UPS is the first commercial delivery entity authorized as a Standard Part 135 operation, the license of which explicitly states there is “no limits on size or scope of operation.” That language right there is huge for commercial operators in that UPS has clearly demonstrated to regulators a level of safety and spatial awareness in the NAS that no drone entity, not Alphabet or Amazon or anyone, had yet achieved.
Maybe such developments aren’t quite as unattainable as previously thought?
Buried at the bottom of this FAA page explaining Part 135 is the exciting news that FAA is also in the process of approving six more of these types of operations.
So, we’ll see a handful of commercial entities approved for similar operations in the NAS in the near future.
What’s that old saying? “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.”
Yeah, I’d say that fits here.