Equipment Type

Commercial Drone Use Just Got Easier

FAA is testing automatic approvals for low altitude UAS operations at air traffic facilities covering 500 airports

March 30, 2018
Drone operators using LAANC can gain access to controlled airspace near airports

If your company uses drones to view, map or monitor construction projects, getting approval to operate your commercial drones in controlled airspace is about to become easier and safer.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced it is expanding tests of an automated system that will ultimately provide near real-time processing of airspace authorization requests for unmanned aircraft (UAS) operators nationwide.

Under the FAA’s Part 107 small drone rule, pilots or operators planning to fly in controlled airspace under 400 ft. must receive an airspace authorization from the FAA. Until recently, this involved a 19-step manual application process.

To facilitate those approvals, the agency deployed the prototype Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) at several air traffic facilities last November to evaluate the feasibility of a fully automated solution enabled by data sharing.

Based on the prototype’s success, which dramatically decreased the wait time pilots and drone operators had to endure using the manual process, the agency will now conduct a nationwide beta test beginning April 30 that will deploy LAANC incrementally at nearly 300 air traffic facilities covering approximately 500 airports. The final deployment will begin on September 13.

Drone operators using LAANC can get access to controlled airspace near airports with near real-time processing of airspace authorizations, allowing to operators to quickly plan their flights. Air traffic controllers will also be able to see where planned drone operations will take place. UAS Facility Maps will show the maximum altitudes around airports where the Approved UAS Service Providers may offer near-real time airspace authorizations.

In addition, LAANC will make use of data streams containing other airspace information such as temporary flight restrictions, airspace data, and NOTAMs. This information, along with the UAS facility maps allow the UAS Service Suppliers to visualize a complex airspace and ensure that each authorization granted adheres to strict safety regulation.

On April 30, 2018, FAA will begin to roll out the capability regionally as part of a National Beta Test.

South Central USA — April 30, 2018
Western North USA — May 24, 2018
Western South USA — June 21, 2018
Eastern South USA — July 19, 2018
Eastern North USA — August 16, 2018
Central North USA — September 13, 2018

For more information on the LAANC roll out, visit these links:

What Drone Operators Need to Know About the Expansion of LAANC

FAA Expands Drone Airspace Authorization Program

FAA UAS Data Exchange


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