The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Drone Express is currently working with the FAA towards our part 135 Air Carrier and Operator Certificate for drone package delivery. More information about the certification can be found here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/advanced_operations/package_delivery_drone/

UAS Integrated Pilot Program (IPP)

Drone Express joined the UAS IPP through lead participant, The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Beginning in 2017, the UAS IPP has brought state, local, and tribal governments together with private sector entities, such as UAS operators or manufacturers, to test and evaluate the integration of civil and public drone operations into our national airspace system. The program which has now completed helped the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the FAA craft new rules that support more complex low-altitude operations. Drone Express is now part of the IPP replacement known as BEYOND.

Type Certification – 14 CFR 21.17(b)

The Drone Express Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) model DE-2020 is currently undergoing Type Certification. Type Certification is the approval of the design of the aircraft and all component parts including propellers, motors and the Ground Control Stations (GCS). It signifies the design is in compliance with applicable airworthiness, noise and other FAA standards. The Means of Compliance (MOC) are through Durability and Reliability (D&R) Flight Testing which observe the UAS performance over several flight hours. The Drone Express flight crew are located in San Diego near the FAA Los Angeles Aircraft Certification Office (ACO) which is the main ACO for UAS type certification. Drone Express flight tests are performed daily at our 100 acre test range in Encinitas, CA.

In addition to the D&R flight testing is a thorough mechanical design review including the generation of a Master Drawing List, detailed assembly instructions and critical part designation. Part suppliers as well as country of origin are also analyzed to ensure the Type Design is complete and capable of production.

Production Certificate – 14 CFR 21-43

The Drone Express UAS is also completing a Production Certificate which is the approval to manufacture duplicate products under an FAA-approved type design. The Production Certificate signifies that an organization and its personnel, facilities, and quality system can produce a product or article that conforms to its approved design. Drone Express is working with the FAA Manufacturing Inspection District Office (MIDO) office in Saddle Brook, NJ as well as the the LAACO.

Air Carrier and Operator Certificate – 14 CFR Part 135

Drone Express is one of a handful of companies actively pursuing a Part 135 Certificate for drone package delivery. Part 135 certification is the only path for small drones to carry the property of another for compensation beyond visual line of sight.

Applicants must use the FAA’s existing Part 135 certification process, some of which FAA has adapted for drone operations by granting exemptions for rules that don’t apply to drones, such as the requirement to carry the flight manuals on board the aircraft.

The FAA issued the first Part 135 Single pilot air carrier certificate for drone operations to Wing Aviation, LLC in April 2019. The FAA later issued Wing a Standard Part 135 air carrier certificate to operate a drone aircraft in October 2019. Wing Aviation is part of the Integration Pilot Program (IPP), delivering food and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals directly to homes in Christiansburg, VA. UPS Flight Forward, Inc., another participant in the IPP, was the first company to receive a Standard Part 135 air carrier certificate to operate a drone aircraft. On September 27, 2019, UPS Flight Forward conducted its first package delivery by drone with its part 135 certification when it flew medical supplies at WakeMed’s hospital campus in Raleigh, NC. On August 31, 2020, the FAA approved an exemption allowing Amazon’s Prime Air to move forward with operations while working towards formal certification of the MK27 UA aircraft and the airline operations. The approval comes with significant limits, but allows the company to continue development of the platform and supports progress towards the necessary certifications. To learn more click here https://www.faa.gov/uas/advanced_operations/package_delivery_drone/

FAA ASSURE A27 Project

Drone Express is also the designated multi-rotor participant in the FAA ASSURE A27 Project. The FAA provides research, education, and training grants to universities that comprise the agency’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence (COE) for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) also known as Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE). The goal of the A27 Project is to establish risk-based thresholds for approvals needed to certify UAS for safe operation. Participants in the project allow the ASSURE members to analyze and document an ongoing certification process in the hopes of making improvements for applicants. Drone Express is working with Kansas State University on the A27 Project specifically for multi-rotor aircraft.