The NPR News article and podcast FAA Certifies Google's Wing Drone Delivery Company To Operate As An Airline begins with:

The Federal Aviation Administration has certified Alphabet's Wing Aviation to operate as an airline, in a first for U.S. drone delivery companies. Wing, which began as a Google X project, has been testing its autonomous drones in southwest Virginia and elsewhere.

"Air Carrier Certification means that we can begin a commercial service delivering goods from local businesses to homes in the United States," Wing said in a statement posted to the Medium website.

The article, plus the BBC News's Google Wing drones approved for US home deliveries indicate that Wing (owned by Alphabet, which also owns Google) will be he first US drone delivery company to be run as an airline.:

See also Medium.com's Wing becomes first certified Air Carrier for drones in the US

Question: What operational aspects of Wing will be the same as that of other airlines? They won't sell seats of course, but will the file flight plans for example? Will they have licensed human pilots to oversee the drone's flight?

Google's Wing Drone

The Wing company, a Google spinoff, has won federal approval to operate its drone delivery system as an airline in the U.S. Credit: Wing, Source

Google's Wing Drone

Customers who took part in Wing's drone delivery test program in Virginia approach their package after it was dropped on their lawn. Credit: Wing Source

  • $\begingroup$ @StephenS ah, I see now how "certified air-carrier" in one article became "airline" in others, thanks. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 0:44
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenS I wonder if that's sufficient to post as an answer? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 1:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Converted to answer. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenS now see, that didn't take long :-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 1:37

1 Answer 1


Under FAR Part 117, only certified "air carriers" are allowed to sell "aviation services" to the general public. Certification means that the FAA has determined the proposed operations, whatever they may be, will be reasonably safe.

FAR Part 121 covers most scheduled air carriers, which are commonly called "airlines". These are the only air carriers that the media knows about, so it's understandable that they'd conflate the two.

FAR Part 135 covers unscheduled and very small scheduled air carriers. I suspect this is where Google Wing would fall, but I haven't seen anything definitive so far.


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