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FAA approves Zipline's drone delivery system in North Carolina

FAA approves Zipline’s drone delivery system in North Carolina

This is a big deal! The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved Zipline’s drone delivery system in North Carolina. It appears that the coronavirus pandemic has pushed the government agency to fast-track beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) medical drone deliveries in the U.S.

FAA approves Zipline’s drone delivery system

The Bay Area startup has received approval from the FAA to start using its medical drone delivery system in North Carolina. Zipline has already completed over 40,000 successful drone deliveries and flown more than 1.8 million miles with its fixed-wing drones in countries such as Rwanda, Tanzania, and Ghana, where done regulations are more lenient than in the U.S.

However, as of today Zipline in partnership with Novant Health will start delivering medical supplies and protective equipment in North Carolina. The Zipline unmanned aircraft will make deliveries beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) between its base of operations in Kannapolis, NC to two nearby Novant facilities in the Huntersville area. These will be round trips of about 20 to 30 miles, where the drones fly at a speed of 80 mph and carry up to 4 pounds of cargo.

“The FAA has been an incredible partner throughout the process and worked very hard to make this possible,” Justin Hamilton, a spokesperson for Zipline, told Protocol.

In a press release, Zipline founder Keller Rinaudo said:

“We’re likely in for a long-term, one- to two-year fight against COVID-19. Using contactless drone delivery will be an important tool in that effort.”

As of March 2020, the FAA has only granted approval for six companies to fly drones beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS), a rule referred to as Part 107.31.

Zipline’s drones are the first that are approved to fly in Class D airspace, which is normally reserved for commercial aircraft. The drone company has already said that it could scale up its medical drone delivery system in the U.S. as needed.

What do you think about the FAA approving Zipline’s drone delivery system? Let us know in the comments below.

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