Alphabet unit Wing seeks FAA OK to help expand U.S. drone operations

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, April 23 (Reuters) - Alphabet's Wing Aviation unit asked the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to waive some drone rules, a move that would allow it expand operations beyond a small city in Virginia, the FAA said in a notice on Friday.

Since 2019, Wing has provided several thousand

direct-to-home and on-demand delivery services to residents in Christiansburg, Virginia.

"Wing is now seeking to expand and improve upon these operations to serve additional communities," Wing said in asking the FAA for exemptions from some drone rules. The agency said it would accept public comments on the petition before making a decision.

Wing told the FAA it has recently "made substantial investments designed to increase both the safety and

capacity" of U.S.-based drone operations. It has been accident-free for more than 17 months.

Wing wants FAA approval to consolidate remote pilot operations from local facilities "to regional

operations facilities that are capable of safely controlling a larger number of aircraft simultaneously."

Wing said as its expands operations, it plans to use a derivative of the current version "that has been shown to be reliable in commercial operations and is highly similar in its operational characteristics." But it needs FAA permission "to identify and allow this alternative aircraft version."

Wing also asked the FAA to conduct operator line checks every 12 months rather than every three months under its interim restrictions.

It said "existing requirements will make it infeasible to expand a light-footprint, distributed operation across a community," adding that the proposed changes "will help ensure that more American households can experience the benefits of (drone) technology."

New FAA rules officially took effect on Wednesday allowing for small drones to fly over people and at night without obtaining government waivers.

The long-awaited rules address security concerns by requiring remote identification technology in most cases to enable a drone's identification from the ground.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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