Merlin gains New Zealand AOC for air freight operations

A Merlin test aircraft over New Zealand
Photo Credit: Merlin

Merlin, a developer of autonomous flight technology for fixed-wing aircraft, has proudly announced its acquisition of a Part 135 Air Operators Certificate (AOC) ahead of forthcoming operational freight routes within New Zealand.

This regulatory achievement marks the latest step in Merlin’s move towards operational status in New Zealand.

Upon product certification of the Merlin Pilot by the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA), Merlin will be fully certified to conduct freight operations on selected regional routes

The operator will use crewed aircraft augmented with the Merlin Pilot, its integrated hardware and software solution, to serve rural cargo destinations.

Photo Credits: Merlin

Role of Merlin Pilot in Future Operations

Attaining the New Zealand Part 135 AOC is a testament to Merlin’s commitment to adhering to rigorous safety standards and regulatory compliance.

This certification empowers Merlin to conduct essential data collection flights along designated regional freight routes, positioning the company as a frontrunner in the realm of autonomous aviation.


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The Merlin Pilot, upon completion of product certification by the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA), will play a central role in facilitating critical data acquisition missions.

These missions serve as a cornerstone for informing future development decisions on a global scale, ensuring operational efficacy and compliance with regulatory authorities such as the CAA and the Federal Aviation Association (FAA).

A Merlin autonomous flight Cessna Caravan aircraft in flight.

Data Collection for Global Development

The data collected during these freight routes serves as invaluable insights for guiding Merlin’s strategic development roadmap. By leveraging real-world operational data, the company can refine its technology, enhance safety protocols, and optimize performance across its suite of autonomous flight solutions.

Progress Towards Certification

Since the inception of its Project Specific Certification Plan (PSCP) in August 2021, Merlin has made significant strides in advancing both organizational capabilities and product certifications.

The attainment of the state of involvement (SOI) 1 milestone with the CAA in May 2023 acknowledges the operator’s continued drive to achieving regulatory approval and commercial viability.

Significance of Part 135 Certification

This certification will now afford the company the opportunity to use New Zealand as a testing ground for current and future innovations, says Matt George, CEO and founder of Merlin.

“Achieving an organizational Part 135 certification gives us the opportunity to work with a forward-thinking regulator as well as leverage New Zealand as a sandbox for our current and future products,” he said in a statement.

“This milestone enables us to continue progressing our technical maturity, ultimately validating the safety and operational effectiveness of the Merlin Pilot for part 23 certification and beyond.”

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 3 Min Read
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