Days after its spacecraft reached Pluto, NASA hit another milestone closer to home: It helped make the first Federal Aviation Administration-approved drone delivery.
The space agency deployed its remote-controlled Cirrus SR-22 fixed-wing aircraft in a mission to pick up and deliver medical supplies to a free clinic in rural Virginia Friday. The delivery was part of a NASA test program to use drone technology to get critical goods — such as food and medicine — to people in inaccessible areas. FAA guidelines currently restrict most commercial drone activity, but industry giants like Amazon have rallied for exceptions under the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, claiming that drones have the potential to revolutionize delivery services.
"This first unmanned aerial delivery gave us the chance to do some critical research and mission exploration," said Frank Jones, deputy director of NASA Langley's Research Services Directorate — which operates the aircraft, in a release.