BLACKSBURG, VA - It may not be long before drones are delivering your pizza.
Wing is the first drone delivery company to be awarded an air carrier certification by the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced in a press release Tuesday.
With this certification, Wing will be able to deliver commercial packages via drone, but only in Blacksburg, Virginia. The company plans to begin with food delivery.
Wing was born as a project for X, Google's ambitious technology development program geared at solving the world's hardest problems on short timelines, and it has now “graduated” into a full-blown company, according to the X website.
The Wing creators describe it as “an autonomous delivery drone service aiming to increase access to goods, reduce traffic congestion in cities, and help ease the CO2 emissions attributable to the transportation of goods.” Environmental friendliness is something the company stresses, citing EPA data that says 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation in the U.S. alone.
The FAA's biggest concern is safety.
“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,” said Chao.
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the FAA are still working out new rules around unmanned drone operation. To help them in this endeavor, the FAA created the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program, which facilitates work between state and local governments and private sector entities to integrate drones into the economy. Wing partnered with Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and Virginia Tech as part of the program.
To qualify for an air carrier certification, Wing had to meet extensive and strict FAA safety requirements. In addition to large quantities of data and documentation presented by the company, the thousands of safe flights that have been conducted in Australia in the past several years contributed to the FAA's decision to award the certification.
Wing has not yet rolled out operations in Blacksburg, and the company plans to reach out to the local community for feedback before beginning its first commercial drone delivery in the U.S.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.