Matternet gets licence for commercial flights in the US

American drone delivery company Matternet is celebrating today because its drones have been declared fit for commercial operations.

The California-based developer of the world’s leading urban drone delivery system announced that after four years of rigorous evaluation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Matternet M2 drone was finally passed fit for Type Certification.

This gives the drone licence to move out of the pilot phase and operate on a full commercial basis.

Matternet reckons that, as the first non-military unmanned aircraft to achieve Type Certification in the US, this gives the company “a strong competitive advantage in the drone delivery market. The completion of the four-year rigorous evaluation by the FAA proves the safety and reliability of the M2 aircraft, a key step in scaling US commercial drone operations.

“We are incredibly proud that Matternet M2 has met the very rigorous safety standards of the FAA and is the first drone delivery system to be Type Certified in the United States,” said Andreas Raptopoulos, founder and CEO of Matternet. “Drone delivery will revolutionize healthcare and e-commerce in the US. We’ve been at the forefront of this revolution since launching US operations in 2019 — we are now ready for scale.”

Featuring automatic payload and battery exchange capability, intelligent routing and monitoring, precision landing and intuitive command and control, the M2 is designed to address complex challenges in last mile and on-demand logistics.

It delivers packages weighing a maximum of 2kg to destinations as far as 20km.

In describing their product, Matternet said the M2 “is designed to operate around people and infrastructure within urban, suburban and industrial environments. The Matternet M2 brings end-to-end automation in bi-directional logistics with safe, precisely-controlled vehicles enabling unprecedented efficiency, reliability and cost-effectiveness.

The Matternet docking station

“More than 90 percent of the goods transported over the last mile weigh less than 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds). A Matternet M2 delivers 24/7/365 over distances of up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) on a single battery charge.

Matternet’s proprietary cloud system guides Matternet M2 along a secure route in approved airspace at low altitude – between 50 and 100 meters above ground – avoiding tall buildings, infrastructure and populated areas.”

Outside the US, the Matternet M2 has been deployed for commercial use in Switzerland, Malawi, the Dominican Republic and the United Arab Amirates (UAE).

The company first landed in Switzerland in 2017, becoming the first drone company in the world to be authorised for commercial BVLOS operations of drone logistics networks over cities in the country.

In 2019, Matternet and UPS partnered to launch drone delivery services in the US and together started the first revenue drone delivery operations in the US. Operations in the UAE started last year, when Matternet partnered with the Abu Dhabi Department of Health for a city-wide drone delivery network.

To date, Matternet technology boasts of over 20,000 commercial flights.

Among a selected number of package delivery drones, the drone has been operating under Part 135 for the past four years; which is the FAA framework for revenue on-demand air carrier operations, using an exemption while the systems are evaluated.

The Type Certification allows for the implementation of new networks, and getting approvals will be a more streamlined and predictable regulatory process. Additionally, air carrier operating licenses such as Part 135 on-demand transportation can only use Type Certified aircraft.

“This is a victory for not only Matternet, but for the whole UAS industry as it indicates a maturing of the industry and a shift away from exemptions and waivers towards more standard regulation,” said Jim O’Sullivan, vice president of regulatory strategy for Matternet.

“Matternet would like to thank the FAA, as well as our advisors at End State Solutions.”

The evaluation process imposes stringent requirements on the design of the aircraft, how it’s documented, and how it’s tested across a wide range of conditions and over thousands of flights.

The Matternet M2 passed all these tests and was proven to be airworthy and eligible for commercial delivery operations, at least on US soil.

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