The Federal Aviation Administration has given the green light to a drone delivery company to start delivering packages in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Alphabet Inc's Wing Aviation unit on Tuesday got the OK to start delivering goods by drone in Virginia later this year, making the sister unit of search engine Google the first company to get US air carrier certification, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
With the certification in hand, Wing Aviation can turn its tests into commercial deliveries in the U.S.
Wing was spun out past year from Alphabet's X tech incubator (formerly known as Google X), and has been taking part in an FAA-backed pilot program to push the envelope for drone operations in Southwest Virginia.
"Wing worked extensively with the FAA over several years to demonstrate the safety of our aircraft, operations and systems to gain this approval", the release stated.
"This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy". "Safety continues to be our Number One priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential".
With the FAA's approval, Wing's passed a key hurdle that will not only allow the company to make commercial deliveries, but also charge for them - something that was only made possible after passing the FAA's stringent certification process.
While the business case for drone delivery, especially in rural areas, is clear; receiving the certification required the company to prove the safety case beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Wing's drones can fly up to 120 kilometers, or about 74.5 miles, per hour, and can fly up to 400 feet above the ground, according to Google X's website. Wing now operates in Australia and Finland, according to the company's website.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao hailed the certification.
Wing said its next step will be to further its participation in the Virginia pilot program. The United States has lagged other countries in experimentation with drones, something the program hopes to correct.
Mark Blanks, director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, said that commercial delivery is one of the most significant ways to introduce the public to drones.