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Sat, Sep 09, 2023

Matternet Partner UPSFF Granted BVLOS Authorization

Commencement of UPS Drone Deliveries Imminent?

Matternet, a developer of commercial drone-delivery systems for urban and suburban environments, disclosed on 07 September 2023 that its partner-organization, UPS Flight Forward (UPSFF), a wholly owned subsidiary of United Parcel Service (UPS), was granted FAA approval to undertake Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) operations with the former’s Matternet M2 drone.

UPSFF, by dint of the aforementioned approval, is authorized, henceforth, to operate the Matternet M2 drone in the absence of costly visual observers retained to monitor subject drones’ flight environments. UPSFF will replace visual observers with a ground-based RADAR system calibrated to scan for potential air traffic conflicts and report such to remotely-located pilots of UPSFF Matternet M2 drones.

Matternet construes ground-based RADAR a scalable approach to true BVLOS operations—particularly when such systems cover wide areas and their costs are shared amongst multiple users.

Matternet founder and CEO Andreas Raptopoulos stated: “We are thrilled by this approval from the FAA and know this will play a significant role in the scaling of drone-delivery services throughout the United States. We are excited to continue our partnership with UPSFF to grow our services and enable drone-delivery at scale. This is another step in our journey to make drone-delivery a common part of everyday life.”

The UPSFF authorization stands to serve as a template for future BVLOS exemptions by virtue of which ground-based sensors—whether RADAR, optical, or acoustic—are employed to facilitate true BVLOS operations.

UPSFF’s Remote Operations Center will make use of Matternet’s Mission Control software to operate up to three drones per-pilot. The scheme permits centralized control of multiple Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) by a single pilot—a key means by which to improve the economics of drone-delivery and support the expansion thereof.

Approvals of the type granted UPSFF allow companies to autonomously operate flights of FAA-sanctioned drones, thereby occasioning overall increases in operational volume and revenues. Moreover, the UPSFF approval evinces Matternet’s position in the regulatory vanguard of the emergent drone-delivery industry.

Matternet vice-president of regulatory strategy and special projects Jim O’Sullivan remarked: “This is an important moment in our company’s history and will allow us to increase scale while continuing to change the way goods are transported and delivered. We have always known drone-delivery companies can solve numerous challenges. This approval will advance the regulatory framework in a way that encourages wider drone adoption throughout the world.”

Broadly, the approval authorizes Matternet to scale its drone-delivery services, expand into new markets, and continue to advance the field of drone home delivery. Matternet initially partnered with UPSFF in 2019 for purpose of delivering medical supplies across North Carolina and Florida. The partnership expanded in 2021 when UPSFF utilized Matternet M2 drones to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to the Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist medical center in North Carolina.

Matternet was the first company to be granted authorization to operate commercial BVLOS drone-deliveries over cities in Switzerland; the first to launch routine revenue-generating drone-delivery operations in the U.S.; and the first to achieve standard Type Certification and Production Certification by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Matternet is currently partnered with UPS and Ameriflight, both of which have received FAA approval to operate the Matternet M2 drone under Part 135 of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Matternet technology, to date, has enabled tens-of-thousands of commercial drone flights over dense urban and suburban locales in the U.S. and Europe.



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