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UPS receives drone airline approval from the FAA

You may not have to wait much longer to have your packages delivered by drone. That's because UPS received FAA approval to operate a drone airline, the company announced on Tuesday. Essentially, that means UPS can now extend its services and fly as many delivery drones as it wants. But, the company doesn't have plans to start delivering to deliver to individuals just yet.

In March, UPS launched a groundbreaking program that uses drones to deliver medical supplies between buildings at WakeMed’s Raleigh, North Carolina campus. It seems UPS has plans to stick to the medical delivery route before branching out into anything else.

"The company will initially expand its drone delivery service further to support hospital campuses around the country, and to provide solutions for customers beyond those in the healthcare industry," UPS shared in its announcement.

With the Part 135 Standard Certification, UPS can also fly cargo weighing more than 55 pounds, fly at night, and go beyond a pilot's visual line of sight.

“This is history in the making, and we aren’t done yet,” David Abney, UPS chief executive officer, said. “Our technology is opening doors for UPS and solving problems in unique ways for our customers. We will soon announce other steps to build out our infrastructure, expand services for healthcare customers and put drones to new uses in the future.”

Using drones for delivery may seem excessive, but it has a couple really important benefits. To start, drone deliveries can cut down on time, and that's especially important when it comes to transferring medical supplies — which can include blood or organs.

In March, UPS tweeted, "Drone delivery is, at a minimum, 10X faster than the existing ground transport by courier car."

Along with saving on time, drones may be better for the environment than relying on delivery trucks. According to The Conversation, there's a 54 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions when small drones are used to deliver packages in California.

While the outlet's findings about larger, octocopter style drones weren't as clear cut, the Conversation noted that small drones are "better than any truck or van, whether powered by diesel fuel, gasoline, natural gas or even electricity."

UPS says that it's the first company to receive the full Part 135 Standard Certification. Other companies are working on drone deliveries, too, like Wing, which has a Part 135 Single pilot air carrier certificate. It's unclear how long it will take for UPS to scale out its operations, but this puts the company on the path to regular drone deliveries.