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Dec 21, 2020 | FAA, News

FAA grants DroneUp first-ever waiver for flight over people

In a monumental step forward for drone delivery, DroneUp received an industry-first waiver for flight over people and moving vehicles. According to their press release, the startup, which has made significant inroads in the delivery sector by partnering with both Walmart and UPS, was approved “for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Section 107.39 Operation Over People Waiver allowing the unrestricted flight over non-participating persons and moving vehicles to support the drone delivery of COVID-19 test kits.”

What’s also notable about the Section 107.39 waiver is that it allows the operation over people and moving vehicles anywhere in the United States without restrictions on the operative area, location, or route.

“We had to approach this waiver with a strong spirit of collaboration with the FAA, and a willingness to do additional homework to validate our safety case,” says Brendan Stewart, DroneUp’s Training and Compliance Director. “We came to the table with the safety and standardization infrastructure that you’d expect from a small airline… Operating manuals, a safety management system, practical flight tests and proficiency checks, standardized operational risk management and flight reporting.”

Besides being powered by DJI drones, DroneUp collaborated with Indemnis on airframe parachutes. They allow for safe operation over people and moving objects. DroneUp also has a daylight waiver from the FAA, which means it can deliver COVID-19 test kits 24 hours a day.

For all the press it’s gotten over the past few years, drone delivery is still a fringe operation. Most tests of the technology and its capabilities have taken place in sparsely-populated rural areas. The significance of this waiver means that DroneUp, and other companies that get approved in the future, will be able to deliver COVID-19 test kits in urban and heavily congested areas where the virus is much more active. 

While this development indicates that drone delivery will become more mainstream in the future, COVID-19 kit delivery was only an impetus. “This concept of operations is directly applicable to other operations where people and vehicles can’t be controlled, including building inspections for big box stores. The driving need for this waiver may  have been COVID kit deliveries, but it’s certainly not limited to those operations,” Stewart concludes.