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Fri, Jun 02, 2023

Ameriflight Receives FAA Exemption to Operate Drones

The Light in Ameriflight

Ameriflight is the nation’s largest Part 135 cargo airline. In the 55-years since its 1968 founding, the company has evolved from a small air-charter provider and cargo service into an international operator with 14 bases, 1,500 weekly departures, and two-hundred destinations. The company is headquartered in Dallas, TX and retains upwards of five-hundred employees, to include north of 150 pilots, and over one-hundred aircraft.

By dint of its Expedited Supply Chain Solutions department, Ameriflight provides feeder services for overnight express carriers, as well as on-demand cargo-carrying services for customers with divergent priority shipping needs.

On 30 May 2023, Ameriflight announced it had received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate drone aircraft. The approval renders Ameriflight the first Part 135 Cargo airline to receive such exemption and allows the air-carrier to conduct Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) operations under its current Part 119 Air Carrier Certificate for Part 135 operations. Moreover, the FAA has granted Ameriflight approval to add Matternet’s M2 UAS—the first drone-delivery system granted standard Type Certification by the Federal Aviation Administration—to its fleet, thereby heralding the launch of the United States’ first fully operational, large-scale drone-delivery operation.

Ameriflight intends to ply its Matternet M2 drones to the businesses of commercial delivery with foci on health-care and e-commerce deliveries to customers in densely-populated urban and suburban environments. Utilizing Matternet's software platform, Ameriflight will deploy its fleet of M2 drones from a central remote Network Operations Center. By centralizing its UAS operation, the company is better able to safely expand its UAS delivery network while maintaining the utmost level of pilot-operator supervision and flexibility. Ameriflight intends to maintain the entirety of its current pilots, aircraft, hubs, and routes—operating uncrewed aircraft merely as a supplement to its crewed operations.

Ameriflight president and CEO Alan Rusinowitz stated: “Adding this state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly aircraft and launching our UAS division allows us to expand our service offerings to off-airport alternative sites for time-sensitive small package needs. Matternet’s technology is at the forefront of autonomous innovation and provides a revolutionary solution for customers. We’re looking forward to launching our first M2 flights very soon and, as we move forward into future flight, developing additional areas of drone delivery.”

In addition to delivering small-batch pharmaceuticals—the import and perishable nature of which are innately incommensurate with the protracted and unpredictable delivery times characteristic of contemporary ground transportation methods—Ameriflight is expanding into e-commerce, a forum in which drone delivery enables expedient delivery of small packages.

Ameriflight owner and chairman Jim Martell set forth: “The approval to add drones to our operation positions Ameriflight, once again, at the forefront of innovation in the aviation industry. Moving forward with the future of our newly operative UAS division allows us to expand into a largely untapped delivery market with a lot of room for speed and safety logistic improvements. After having accomplished this unprecedented milestone, we are more than excited to continue our partnership with Matternet, a best-in-class developer of cutting-edge drone-delivery technology.”

Matternet co-founder and CEO Andreas Raptopoulos remarked: “We are thrilled to enable the nationwide deployment of our drone-delivery system and to have Ameriflight, a leading cargo airline with a strong track record of reliability, safety, and performance, at our side. This partnership enables us to offer our customers turnkey access to fast and reliable on-demand delivery capabilities today. This is not a test program or a future deployment concept – this is the real, scalable, and safe drone-based solution that customers are looking for.”

The news of the FAA’s approval of its inchoate drone delivery service occasions Ameriflight’s third 2023 announcement pertaining to the company’s expansion into the emergent drone-delivery sector. Previously, the air-carrier entered into an agreement with California’s Sabrewing Aircraft for the purchase of a number of the latter’s Rhaegal-A aircraft, a one-ton-payload, medium-haul feeder uncrewed aerial vehicle. Additionally, Ameriflight is to acquire a number of San Diego-based Natilus’s uncrewed, Blended-Wing-Body (BWB) Kona aircraft, a 3.8-ton payload, short-haul feeder uncrewed aerial vehicle.

Ameriflight intends to contemporaneously utilize its fleets of the three UAS platforms in conjunction with its extant manned aircraft operations.



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