The FAA has authorized drone delivery and logistics company Zipline to make commercial deliveries using drones flying beyond the operator’s line of sight. According to the agency, Zipline will use its Sparrow drone, which releases payloads via parachute and is capable of traveling up to 120 miles, for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations. Zipline received FAA Part 135 approval for long-range drone delivery in the U.S. in 2022.

“For more than a decade, even the most advanced long-range drone deliveries in the U.S. required visual observers, stationed on the ground along a route, to watch the sky during the delivery,” Zipline said. “This historic decision will help enable broad integration of autonomous aircraft into the U.S. national airspace and make commercial drone delivery scalable and affordable.”

Zipline noted that its delivery drones are equipped with an onboard perception system that “uses ADS-B transponders that identify aircraft in the nearby airspace, as well as an acoustic avoidance system that uses small, lightweight microphones to detect and avoid other aircraft flying up to two miles away in all directions.” The company reports that it has completed over 700,000 deliveries to customers and flown 50 million autonomous commercial miles with its drone platforms to date. In addition to the U.S., Zipline operates in Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, Japan, Kenya and Côte D’Ivoire.

For a closer look at Zipline’s medical delivery operations in Rwanda check out www.avweb.com/multimedia/votw/drone-deliveries-saving-lives-in-rwanda.

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