First FAA-Approved Delivery of Cargo by Drone Drops Medicine in Virginia

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UAV Operator Routinely Makes Drone Deliveries in New Zealand.

An unmanned aerial vehicle successfully dropped medical supplies to a health clinic in rural southwest Virginia last week, in the first government-approved drone delivery of cargo.

The delivery was made by a drone operator, Australian startup Flirtey—which already provides drone deliveries in New Zealand, where it is allowed by law. It was the first drone delivery approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. This Flirtey aircraft, a Cirrus SR22, weighs 10 pounds and lowered its cargo via tether.

“This is a Kitty Hawk moment not just for Flirtey, but for the entire industry,” said Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny. “Proving that unmanned aircraft can deliver lifesaving medicines is an important step toward a future where unmanned aircraft make routine autonomous deliveries of your everyday purchases.”

A NASA plane operated by delivered the medicine to a Wise County, Virginia, regional airport and a Flirtey-operated drone took 24 packages the rest of the way, to a remote pop-up clinic that offers medical care to area residents one weekend per year at the county fairgrounds.

The delivery was perfomred under FAA authority granted to the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech University.

“Important safety and logistical matters needed to be considered by the Federal Aviation Administration as well as all of the government and industry partners working to make this happen,” said Rose Mooney, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech. “We have painstakingly reviewed the details with the FAA, making sure nothing is overlooked, from the flight plan to even the contents of the medical payload. We needed to demonstrate that we had done our homework to ensure optimum safety.”

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Victor Imhangbe

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