Want to fly a drone in a specific area, but can’t because the drone is too close to an airport?
It is currently illegal for commercial drone pilots to fly in restricted airspace (which typically occurs within 5 miles of an airport) without permission, and getting approval had been a lengthy, paperwork-ridden process that could take months. That made situations like police monitoring crowds during a protest, electric companies inspecting a problem with a power line or first responders trying to find lost hikers impossible, should those drone flights occur near an airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration is taking note — and making it easier to get nearly-instant approval to fly drones near about 500 airports.
The FAA at the 2018 FAA UAS Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland today announced that it would expand its tests of its real-time approval processing program to 500 airports by the fall of this year.
The tests are a part of the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program, which began last November at just a handful of air traffic facilities. The LAANC program allowed drone operators to use an interface from one of four providers that were hand-picked by the FAA — AirMap, Project Wing (an entity of X, formerly known as Google), Rockwell Collins and Skyward — to request approval to fly in restricted airspace. Operators would then receive approval almost instantly.
The expansion will begin in April, with the FAA releasing a new region each month. Here is the order of when each region will get the LAANC program:
- April 30: South Central USA
- May 24: Western North USA
- June 21: Western South USA
- July 19: Eastern South USA
- August 16: Eastern North USA
- September 13: Central North USA
The airspace authorization will 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 FAA today also announced that it is accepting applications for other companies to become a LAANC service provider. That could ease up concerns that the ability for private companies to control the airspace is becoming an “ole boys club.”
Some industry players feared that the FAA selecting just 4 companies to provide such a service with no clear criteria of how to get chosen was a threat to other companies, particular small startups with minimal resources. Continue reading Flying a drone near an airport is about to get a lot easier as FAA’s LAANC program extends to 500 airports