Matternet has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its Model M2 drone delivery drone design. In a press releaseMatternet explains that the Model M2 is the first non-military unmanned aerial vehicle to achieve this Type certification by the FAA, which determines that an aircraft’s design meets legal standards.
California-based Matternet has spent the past four years testing its Model M2 drone in the US as part of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) program. Matternet says getting the green light from the FAA could help streamline the process of “deploying new networks and getting approvals.”
Matternet partnered with UPS to deliver medical supplies in North Carolina in 2019 and later began delivering prescriptions in Florida. Matternet also expanded its footprint into Switzerland, where it partnered with the Swiss Post to provide lab samples and blood tests. The program was briefly suspended in 2019 after its drones suffered two crashes in the country, but Matternet has since announced that it will take over the Swiss Post’s drone delivery program from 2023.
In a statement, the FAA said Matternet’s Model M2 drone “complies with all federal regulations for safe, reliable and verifiable operations and provides a level of safety equivalent to existing airworthiness standards applicable to other categories of aircraft.” The four-rotor drone is approved to carry payloads of four pounds and fly at altitudes of 400 feet or below at a maximum speed of 45 mph.
Matternet’s announcement comes as other tech (and retail) giants begin to ramp up their efforts to get their own drone delivery services off the ground. In May, Walmart said it will expand its drone delivery network — which it launched last year in partnership with DroneUp — to Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia by the end of 2022. Amazon also announced plans to stall its drone delivery program in June, eventually bringing drone-powered deliveries to Lockeford, California and College Station, Texas. Wing, the drone company of Google’s parent company Alphabet, recently launched tests in parts of Texas and began work on drones that can carry larger payloads.