Alphabet’s Wing venture has stolen a march on Amazon’s plans for drone domination by winning air carrier certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Air Carrier Certification means that we can begin a commercial service delivering goods from local businesses to homes in the United States,” Wing said today in a Medium post celebrating the milestone.
Wing was spun out last year from Alphabet’s X tech incubator (formerly known as Google X), and has been taking part in an FAA-backed pilot program to push the envelope for drone operations in Southwest Virginia.
The company has also conducted a test program in Australia that involved more than 3,000 drone deliveries to doorsteps, backyards and driveways. In all, Wing’s drones have flown more than 70,000 test flights, and is starting up delivery operations in Finland.
Wing said the data submitted to the FAA for certification showed that “a delivery by wing carries a lower risk to pedestrians than the same trip made by car.”
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao hailed the certification.
“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy. Safety continues to be our No. 1 priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential,” she said in a statement.
Wing said its next step will be to further its participation in the Virginia pilot program. “For the next several months, we’ll be reaching out to businesses and community members in the Blacksburg and Christiansburg areas to demonstrate our technology, answer questions, and solicit feedback with the goal of launching a delivery trial later this year,” the company said.
Amazon has been conducting its own drone delivery test flights in locations ranging from Israel and France to rural Washington state. The Seattle-based online retailing giant showed off its first-ever Prime Air drone delivery to a customer in England more than two years ago. Amazon missed out on participating in the FAA’s first wave of drone pilot programs, however.
We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment, and will update this item with anything we hear back.