United Parcel Service has become the first U.S. company to win government approval to operate a nationwide fleet of drones.
This doesn’t mean drones will become obvious anytime soon but it represents a step forward toward a new age of drone deliveries by retailers.
Associated Press reports that the designation removes limits on the size of the company’s potential drone operation and includes tentative permission for night flights. For now, operations will be limited to campus-like settings including hospitals, colleges and office complexes.
The Federal Aviation Administration has yet to approve commercial drone flights over populated areas. For now, UPS faces severe restrictions before a large commercial operation would be possible.
For example, its drones will not be allowed to fly beyond the site of an operator without an FAA exemption for each route. Each flight also will need a separate operator.
Regulatory and technological hurdles have slowed Amazon’s hopes of using drones. Five years ago, CEO Jeff Bezos predicted that drones would be making regular deliveries to homes by this year but that has not happened.