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Thursday, February 9, 2023

FAA approves first-ever delivery drone Production Certificate


Here’s a big step forward for the U.S. drone delivery scene: the Federal Aviation Administration has approved its first ever Production Certificate for a delivery drone. This news makes Matternet the first (and currently only) company able to produce certified delivery drones in the U.S. 

The Production Certificate was granted by the FAA to Matternet, a Silicon Valley-based drone company that builds and operates its own delivery drones. The certificate is specifically for the company’s Matternet M2 drone, and it basically means that the FAA believes Matternet has demonstrated quality management nd manufacturing capabilities needed to produce aircraft in that design.

The M2 drone earlier this year also achieved another type of certification from the FAA, which is the FAA’s standard Type Certification. The Type Certification, which was granted in September 2022, means that the FAA believes the M2 drone “is airworthy and eligible for commercial delivery operations in the
U.S.” The M2 is the first non-military unmanned aircraft to achieve Type Certification in the U.S.

Matternet Production Certificate
Photo courtesy of Matternet.

What does Matternet’s delivery drone Production Certificate mean going forward?

Between the Type Certification and its new Production Certificate, Matternet has a strong competitive advantage in the drone delivery market. Now, Matternet is able to manufacture, test and issue airworthiness certificates for M2 drones at its facility in Mountain View, California going forward.

And with both Type Certification and Production Certificates t their name, Matternet is the first company in the U.S. with an approved and in-production aircraft that has been deemed airworthy and eligible for commercial delivery operations.  

The news comes at a time when the company has its sights set on expanding its U.S. operations. Unlike many drone delivery companies that have primarily been delivering food, including recent news that DoorDash would partner with Wing on food deliveries, Matternet has largely been focused on delivering products within the health sector. Matternet cited delivering fast, on-demand and routine delivery of biological lab samples to offsite testing facilities as an example use case.

Photo courtesy of Matternet.

Matternet has a long experience of conducting deliveries in the drone industry, both in the U.S. and internationally. In 2021, Matternet announced a partnership with the Abu Dhabi Department of Health to build a drone delivery system helmed by 40 stations that would distribute and transfer medical supplies within the healthcare sector. 

Matternet said that it expects that its first M2 drones produced under this Production Certificate will enter service this month. 

For now though, Matternet is still the third-largest drone delivery company in the world. According to drone analytics group Drone Industry Insights, Zipline and Wing sit in spots No. 1 and 2, respectively. Those two companies have also operated in the healthcare sector. The largest of them, Zipline, primarily focuses on medical drone deliveries to developing countries. Zipline said that as of March 2022, it had surpassed one million COVID-19 vaccines delivered in Ghana via drone.

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