They say the West Coast is the Best Coast (it is!), and it just got even better. Flying a commercial drone in West Coast states, as well as Hawaii, just got easier today.
This week marked the third phase in the roll-out of the Federal Aviation Administration’s multiphase plan to test Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC).
The LAANC program allows drone operators to use an interface (designed by FAA-selected private companies) to request approval to fly in restricted airspace. Operators will then receive approval almost instantly. That instantly speeds up the ability to legally fly in controlled airspace such as near airports — a cumbersome process that had previously required individual applications and took months.
The rollout opens up airspace near airports in California, Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada. That includes major airports such as LAX in Los Angeles, and McCarran International in Las Vegas. Click here for a complete list of facilities participating in the FAA’s LAANC program.
The airspace authorization will eventually be rolled out to nearly 300 air traffic control facilities, which collectively represent about 500 airports across the U.S. That means 78,000 miles of airspace will be opened up to commercial drone operations once the program is fully rolled out. The first wave of testing launched in May of this year.
The LAANC tests are a huge business opportunity for startups, which are looking to corner the market as the go-to software that pilots use to request airspace authorization. Companies including Verizon’s Skyward, Airbus-backed startup Airmap and Kittyhawk are aggressively promoting their airspace authorization software, particularly this week with AUVSI.
And the drone industry is loving it so far.
“The FAA’s LAANC program has enabled the entire drone industry and others like insurance to have more access to aerial images and data within a matter of seconds, compared to the 90-day wait time before,” said Dan Burton, CEO and Co-Founder, DroneBase. “We’ve already seen LAANC benefit our customers since we’re able to say ‘yes’ 99 percent of the time in Texas and other regions where the program is already available. Before LAANC, we had to say ‘no’ to 30 percent of U.S. addresses due to restricted airspace. “